1.) The FEC only deals with Civil Cases. It does not address Criminal Cases.
This is true. If the FEC is after you, it’s a civil matter. They have direct jurisdiction over federal election civil matters. If the justice department is after you, then they would be seeking criminal charges. In the case of Trump, neither applies. It would be an impeachment proceeding originating from the House.
But note: any of these bodies act on the same statutes. Most campaign violations *could* be pursued criminally, but they aren’t because it is very difficult to prove intent (more on intent this below).
The FEC is the authority on how to apply the campaign finance statutes. This is why the previous video matters so much. In the event of an impeachment, the Senate would start to dig in, ask questions, review statutes, and attempt to make sense of all of this. They will inevitably come across the same language that you’ve been quoting. Obviously it can’t literally mean anything that “influences” an election. Otherwise, it would implicate every federal politician and news agency in existence, including them. This is a sure sign that the broad interpretation you have suggested is not correct. What would they do next (other than display to the American people their incompetence)? They would call the FEC and ask them how they make sense of these arcane laws.
At that point it’s going to come out that there are *other parts of the statutes*, the same ones Smith was referencing, that lead to what the FEC use as their guidelines.
And then... there you go. It will transform into a giant nothing burger when they realize if they consider this a campaign contribution, it means Trump should have paid with campaign funds. But if politicians should do that, then any politician (with all sorts of unsavory affairs) could run for office, settle their affairs with campaign funds, then simply withdraw. Not only that, but it basically means that non-disclosure agreements are illegal/useless for politicians because they have to disclose the non-disclosure agreement. Silly.
Make no mistake: I would actually love the scenario above to play out. Incredible entertainment.
And even if the FEC's bar for violations was that expenditures must "arise directly from the campaign" (which actually isn't the case at all) that's NOT the metric used for criminal liabilities.
The former FEC chairman literally said that is the metric.
The criminal code very much takes a persons intent into consideration - thus the specific inclusion of the language "for the purpose of influencing the election" in the definitions of "contribution" and "expenditure".
You are conflating intent to influence the election with intent to commit a crime. A prosecutor will consider intent to commit a crime, although some statutes don’t require intent (like disclosing classified information). On the other hand, not all expenditures that help a campaign, even though there is “intent” to “influence” the election, are campaign expenditures. The example of whitening teeth, or buying an expensive suit, or paying off a former lover, etc.
But even if there is a violation, it is very rare that it gets to a criminal level. You have to prove it was an intentional breaking of the law. That is the reason why most of these campaign violations are handled as a civil matter through the FEC, as was Obama’s offense. Go back to the video, time stamp 8:07. This exact topic is addressed.
2.) Trump's Financial Disclosure Form he signed when taking office is in regards to HIS personal finances. Not the campaigns. His deliberate exclusion of the $130,000 he owed to Michael Cohen shows he was attempting to hide the payments made through Cohen and David Pecker's corporation American media.
Right. His financial disclosure document shows income/revenue streams and debts. It would not list non-disclosure agreements. You can’t seriously expect a person to disclose a non-disclosure agreement in a public form, can you? If so, then your position effectively makes non-disclosure agreements illegal (or at least useless) for any federally elected office.
Which, in turn, opens up a third avenue for prosecutors to pursue - conspiracy.
You can be charged with robbing a bank. But if you do it with the help of other people - (regardless of success) you can also be charged with conspiracy to rob a bank. The same is true here.
Also, you can eat goat testicles. But because that isn’t a crime, you can eat goat testicles with a bunch of people and it’s still not a crime. Even if you *thought* that eating goat testicles was a crime, and therefore told no one out of shame and fear, there still is no guilt. And if a prosecutor came along and found a member of your group (a lawyer, for example) that had committed some other horrible crime, and as a plea deal, offered a reduced sentence if only he would plead guilty to eating goat testicles, to serve three years, and as part of the deal testify how horrible of a bigoted testicles eater you are... well, you still wouldn’t be in trouble. At this point you might wise up, consult a goat testicle lawyer only to find your lawyer friend plead guilty to a non-crime. You might even tweet about it out of anger and amazement.
PS: Your inclusion of "converted to salt taffy" was brilliant. It made laugh out loud.
I was trying to think what Trump might want to do in his spare time. I cleared my mind, put on some polka music, and that seemed like the logical choice.