Donald Trump may be out of the White House, but he is most certainly not old news. By now, you may have heard that the publisher of National Enquirer has been fined by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for violating U.S. election laws. The stiff penalty does not involve the most recent 2020 presidential contest, but the one in which Donald J. Trump vanquished his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in 2016. One wonders why this long-lost campaign issue – hardly a current event – is being adjudicated now.
A little over three years ago, the nonprofit Common Cause filed a complaint with the government, alleging that the tabloid’s publisher, American Media, Inc., paid $150,000 in hush money to a Playboy model who claimed she had an affair with Mr. Trump. The former president has denied this relationship. The accusation maintained that the money paid to Karen McDougal violated campaign finance law.
Thus, the FEC determined the money paid out represented an illegal in-kind corporate contribution to the 2016 Trump campaign. Mr. Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, has admitted to being the bag man in this enterprise. Cohen said he acted “at the direction of Mr. Trump,” according to The Wall Street Journal. The disgraced attorney – who has publicly admitted to lying about his former client to Congress – is currently serving a three-year sentence in his home for tax evasion and bank fraud.
In making its decision, the Federal Election Commission decided not to take any action against Mr. Trump, much to the dismay of the powers-that-be at Common Cause. “The former president has not yet been held accountable,” complained Common Cause Vice President for Policy and Litigation Paul S. Ryan – not to be confused with the former U.S. representative, Paul D. Ryan. The Common Cause staffer also referred to Trump as the “mastermind of this illegal operation.”
One Serving of Trump’s Head on a Platter, Please
Ryan also pointed out that the U.S. Department of Justice has until August to determine whether it will prosecute 45. Due to the rancorous political atmosphere, this remark has the distinct aroma of a threat that cannot be patently dismissed. Still, the FEC skirmish pales in comparison to the legal muscle behind an investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. involving several Trump property financial dealings.
Vance, Jr. – a Democrat – is scrutinizing loans made for several signature Trump properties in New York. Mr. Trump has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and his lawyers have labeled it a fishing expedition. Vance’s legal pursuit aims to force the New York billionaire to hand over almost a decade of tax returns. Trump appealed to the Supreme Court to block the release of the tax documents, but in February the court refused to hear the case. The matter is currently before an investigative grand jury.
And then there’s Trump’s legal battle with Letitia James. The New York attorney general is conducting her own fraud investigation into at least two other Trump properties. James, you may remember, is pursuing multiple legal actions against the National Rifle Association and appears to wield her power in what many perceive as a highly partisan manner.
The quantity of legal actions being orchestrated on multiple fronts by highly partisan actors against Donald Trump is breathtaking in scope and perhaps even within the confines of American history. It is doubtful that any other former president of the United States – including Richard M. Nixon – was pursued with such willful abandon by so many legal eagles. Perhaps this is all part of the new president’s call for unity and healing? Well, maybe not.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.