Our big brave president boy is having a bad one. His loyal homie Paul Manafort went down hard yesterday, and his disloyal fake friend Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to, among other things, making an illegal contribution to a federal campaign—at “the direction of the candidate,” for “the principal purpose of influencing the  election.”
Fox News aired a preview on Wednesday of an interview Trump filmed with Fox & Friends, his favorite show on his second-favorite channel after the Picture of a Ham and Mayonnaise Sandwich Channel. In the clip, the president tried to explain these illegal payments, which Cohen has claimed were made at Trump’s direction during the 2016 campaign to keep two women from speaking out about alleged affairs with the then-candidate.
It is with a light and joyous heart that I report he did not do well, in that he tried to defend himself by describing doing a crime:
Trump appears to think that what Cohen did would only have been illegal if the money had come from the campaign—but, he proudly claimed, “they didn’t come out of the campaign.” He also dubiously said that’s “not even a campaign [finance] violation.” But, uh, no. That is not OK either.
Regardless of where the money came from, if it was done with the intent of influencing a presidential election—meaning as part of his campaign to become president—they would have to have been disclosed by the campaign as an in-kind contribution. You can “contribute” to a campaign by buying everyone at the campaign office pizza, for example, but that’s still an in-kind contribution, the value of which must be disclosed. Anything at all that you spend money on in service of getting a candidate elected must be disclosed. It’s legal for a candidate to loan their campaign as much money as they like, as Trump did in 2016, but it still has to be disclosed; all Trump did in this interview was admit that he personally made an undisclosed contribution to his campaign. Nowhere on Trump’s FEC report was there a line item for a $130,000 expense described as “PAYMENT TO PORN STAR TO NOT TALK ABOUT GROSS OLD MAN SEX.”
Trump also claimed in the interview that he knew “later on” about the payments, but has previously said he wasn’t aware of them. Of course, it’s hard to imagine how Trump could simultaneously have made the payment himself and not known about it.
None of this means that Trump will definitely go to jail or even be slapped with a fine—if the last couple years have taught us anything, it’s that Trump is exceedingly good at wriggling out of all manner of jams. But it’s pleasant and reassuring, like a warm mug of milk, to know that Trump’s current best defense amid an ever-widening scandal is that he was doing a different crime than the one he thinks he’s in trouble for. Ahh.