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Wednesday, April 5, 2023

America in Shackles

Has the evidence changed in the Trump case?

Oh, goodness, where do we start? Let’s start with the facts and then a short history lesson.

The charges against President Trump, made by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, hinge on whether there is a cover-up of a payment made to Stormy Daniels, who alleged (initially) that she had an affair with Trump in 2006. Then, after Trump became the Republican nominee for president – 10 years later – she threatened to go public with the story of the alleged affair.

This is where Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney at the time, enters the frame. He goes and takes out a home equity line of credit, drawing $130,000 against that line of credit, and then wires that amount to Daniels, allegedly in exchange for her not making public the allegation that she had an affair with Trump 10 years earlier (which now, she says, there never was an affair, but that’s a different discussion).

Back to Cohen. Before he pled guilty in 2018 and was sentenced to 36 months in prison for a) lying to Congress, b) campaign finance violations, and c) tax evasion charges related to his taxi medallion business, Cohen said, “Neither the Trump organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford (Daniels), and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly. The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.” Those are his words.

Now, however, Cohen says it was Trump behind the $130,000 payment.

Even if it was, Trump was being blackmailed all along, and that’s (essentially) according to Daniels. In 2018, she admitted that she lied about the affair, and she said the affair never happened, telling late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, “I am not denying this affair because I was paid ‘hush money’ as has been reported in overseas owned tabloids. I am denying it because it never happened.”

So, back to how Cohen and how he is now saying it was Trump who directed him to make that $130,000 payment to Daniels.

Is that a crime? Of course not, and this is important: Campaign funds were never used. Remember, Cohen took out a home equity line of credit to draw the funds that were wired to Daniels.

Ah, but you may be thinking, “Trump probably reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000, so it’s as if the $130,000 really came from Trump.” This is another “maybe” because the dollars don’t add up.

Cohen says he did request reimbursement from the Trump organization for allegedly $180,035 — $130,000 for the payment to Daniels, plus a wiring fee and an extra $50,000.”

But there was never a payment made by Trump to Cohen for that amount ($180,035).

In fact, the only payments from Trump to Cohen during this time were $35,000, which Cohen invoiced to Trump each month as his legal retainer fee.

This is why the charges against Trump hinge on whether there is a cover-up of the $130,000 payment made by Cohen to Daniels. Did Trump falsify business records and classify Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Daniels as part of Cohen’s $35,000 monthly legal retainer fee?

If so, it’s a misdemeanor. But it becomes a felony if prosecutors can prove this falsification was done to commit or conceal another crime.

It’s important to note that the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission considered the same evidence the Manhattan district attorney had and declined to prosecute. Even the immediately preceding Manhattan district attorney refused to prosecute and closed the Trump case.

Has the evidence changed? Probably not.

But you see, the current Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, campaigned for office by promising to prosecute Trump, so much so that one of Bragg’s opponents in that race said Bragg attacks Trump “for political advantage every chance he gets.”

The case against Trump has been described as “targeted injustice” by Harvard legal expert Alan Dershowitz similar to how prosecutors in the 1950s targeted civil rights workers. In this case, Democrats can target their most potent rival, Trump.

It can also be likened to what Joseph Stalin was doing during the early 1930s, as he was consolidating his power in the Communist Party and purging anyone that criticized him. He called them “enemies of the people” (that sounds familiar) and arrested them. During the peak of these purges, over seven million Soviet citizens were arrested, and millions more died in prison camps (or gulags).

Although few ever saw the inside of a Soviet courtroom, Stalin conducted three scripted “show trials” of his political adversaries during this time to “show” the world that the accused Communist Party leaders and government officials he had arrested were being treated fairly.

Not surprisingly, all the defendants in these “show trials” were found guilty on all the charges and subsequently shot.

Will this cause Trump’s popularity to decline?

Hardly. But it’s not because of Trump. It has never been, and it never will be.

You see, the popularity of Trump’s message is larger than Trump himself – more influential than his fame or fortune. It’s a message about we, the people, and realizing our greatest and best potential comes from within us, granted by God – not from what some government bureaucrat decides is best for us.

At the end of the day, you can indict the man, but you’ll never (ever) shackle the spirit of the American people.

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.


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