Republican House members Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York were the first two congressmen to endorse candidate Donald Trump for president in 2016. They are the founding members of the “Trump Caucus” in Congress. So it makes sense, I think, that each of these two congressmen has been indicted in the past couple of months.
Last month, Collins was indicted for insider stock trading. He served as chairman of the board for a pharmaceutical firm in Australia. When he received information about the ineffectiveness of one of the company’s new drugs, he alerted his son (who alerted other family members) to sell their stock in the company before the information became public and the value of the stock plummeted. It is estimated that the family saved about $800,000.
Interestingly, Collins communicated this inside information to his son during a White House reception. You can’t make this stuff up.
Hunter, along with his wife, were indicted on Aug. 21 on charges related to the misuse of $250,000 worth of campaign funds for personal expenses and the filing of false campaign finance records. The couple used campaign funds, according to the indictments, to pay for family vacations to Italy and Hawaii, dental work, gifts for their children, bar tabs, and — my favorite — a plane ticket for their pet rabbit to travel with the family. They were also charged with bank fraud and falsifying records to obstruct justice. For his defense, Hunter is blaming his wife. He said that she handled his campaign finances and their home budget. I’m sure this defense will secure a lot of female voters to his cause as he runs for re-election in November.
If you have to be indicted, pick a day when the news is busy covering other things so that your indictment doesn’t get a lot of attention. Hunter’s indictment was announced on the same day a jury found former Trump presidential campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, guilty of eight felony counts, including five counts of tax evasion.
Also on that same day (Hunter was doubly lucky), Trump’s former personal lawyer for many years, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight felony counts, including two counts of violating campaign finance laws, according to Cohen, “in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump. These two counts are related to payment of hush money to two women who say they had affairs with Trump. If true, and Cohen has a tape of himself talking to Trump about one of the payments, Trump may be guilty of violating campaign finance laws.
At first, Trump denied knowing anything about the payments to the two women. Then, he admitted to knowing about the payments “after” they were made. Then he admitted to making the payments from his own bank account, but continued to deny the affairs. So why did he give them money?
Trump now says that because he used his own money — not campaign money — it was not a crime to pay the two women hush money to be quiet about something that didn't happen. So, if it was legal, why didn’t he write the checks directly to the women? Interestingly, while one of the women received $130,000, the indictment states that Cohen was reimbursed by Trump’s business to the tune of $420,000. Now that’s some rate of return for Cohen. No wonder Trump went bankrupt six times.
In fact, because the money was used to help his campaign by hiding the news about the two women who say they had an affair with Trump (just weeks prior to the election), the source of the money is irrelevant. Many politicians use their own money to fund their campaigns, but they still need to report their spending on required campaign forms.
Democratic Vice President candidate John Edwards (running on John Kerry’s 2004 ticket) was indicted on six felony charges in 2011 for giving money to a woman he had an affair with. Like Trump, Edwards claimed he used his own money to pay the woman and not campaign money. In fact, it didn’t make a difference with regards to his being indicted.
Trump compared his former lawyer, Cohen, to a “RAT” like John Dean, the famous White House lawyer who provided evidence against President Richard Nixon. In Trump’s mind, Dean was a “RAT” for being honest about his crimes and the crimes of the Nixon administration. Meanwhile, Trump has nothing but praise for Paul Manafort who has been found guilty of eight felonies, including five counts of tax evasion. Manafort “is a good guy. I have great respect for what he has done,” said Trump. You mean, not paying his taxes? Could this be related to why Trump doesn’t want us to see his tax returns?
Although Manafort broke the law, he is “a good guy” because he remains loyal to Trump. That is, after all, the bottom line for this president. Sad.