Today, a key member of the Federal Election Commission ruled that the Manhattan district attorney's indictment of former President Donald Trump violated federal election laws.
“It's not a campaign finance violation. It's not a reporting violation of any kind,” said FEC Commissioner James E. “Trey” Trainor, according to The Washington Examiner.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg “is really trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole,” by attempting to extend the law so that it appears to be a violation, he said.
Bragg alleged in a 34-count indictment of Trump, the first criminal case ever brought against a former president, that a $130,000 payment made by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels, for which Cohen was sentenced to prison, violated several campaign finance laws.
However, according to Trainor, the FEC and Justice Department have already reviewed the case and dismissed it.
In light of this, Trainor told Secrets today that it would be difficult for a judge or jury to reach a different conclusion, given that the FEC and DOJ enforce federal campaign finance law. In a Tuesday tweet depicting the FEC hearing chamber, he stated, "This is where campaign finance violations are prosecuted."
Trump's appointee, a Texas-based election litigator named Trainor, enumerated several reasons why the FEC decided not to pay Daniels in 2018. Additionally, he released a statement that he and Commissioner Sean Cooksey wrote in April 2021 to explain why the FEC voted to dismiss the case. The statement is displayed below.
First, he stated that Cohen accepted responsibility in his plea agreement. Cohen is in prison because he committed a crime, said Trainor.
Second, the alleged documentation violation occurred well after Trump's 2016 election, so it could not have been done to aid his campaign.
Third, it is not clear that the payment and reimbursement to Cohen were intended to influence the election, thus failing the "objective standard" of the law.
“It has to be something that anybody on the street can look at and say the only reason you did that was to influence the campaign,” said Trainor. “There's a lot of reasons that he could have done it that aren't related to him being a candidate for president, and so therefore, it wouldn't have met the standard as campaign expenditure under federal law,” he added.
In addition, the statute of limitations on the case was expiring, and it was not worth the time and expense to prosecute, he explained.
“I don't know how you get around the evidence that both the Department of Justice in their investigation of the federal campaign finance issues and the Federal Election Commission in their ultimate jurisdiction over campaign finance issues, neither of them found there to be any violations whatsoever, and I think the jury is going to see that and they're going to have to rely upon the fact that both the law enforcement experts and the civil enforcement experts, as far as campaign finance are concerned, didn't find any violation of the law here,” said Trainor.