Legal experts say there’s no comparison between the two.
In a series of early morning tweets Monday, Trump asserted Cohen’s payments to silence two women who claimed affairs with him amounted to a “simple private transaction” rather than illegal campaign contributions.
But even if the payments had been campaign contributions, he argued, they should result in a “CIVIL CASE like Obama’s” and any blame should fall on Cohen, not him. …
“It’s really an apples and oranges comparison,” added Paul Ryan, the top lawyer at Common Cause, a watchdog group. Common Causes’ January complaint with the Federal Election Commission prompted Cohen to publicly admit making a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.
The payment, just days before the 2016 general election, was aimed at keeping her quiet about a decade-old tryst Daniels said she had with Trump.
“We are not talking about minor, technical violations,” Ryan said of the allegations against Cohen.
“The Obama civil penalty was consistent with the types of fines that most big campaigns end up paying after an election for reporting errors,” he added. …
The Cohen plea is markedly different from the Edwards case, said Common Cause’s Ryan. Edwards’ case lacked key witnesses involved in the payments. One donor who prosecutors allege used his money to help conceal Edwards’ mistress had died by the time the trial started; the other, heiress Bunny Mellon, was 101 at the time and too frail to take the stand.
“We have a direct participant in these transactions, Michael Cohen, who has testified under oath that the purpose of these payments was to influence the election,” Ryan said. “There certainly wasn’t evidence like that in the John Edwards trial.”