In an interview today, President Trump made a very important point about his payoff to Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels. As usual, he wasn’t particularly clear, but the point comes through:
I don’t know if you know but I tweeted about the payments. But they didn’t come out of campaign. In fact, my first question when I heard about it was did they come out of the campaign because that could be a little dicey. They didn’t come out of the campaign and that’s big. … It’s not even a campaign violation.
This is the same observation that I made this morning on the Laura Ingraham radio show. It is illegal to use campaign funds to pay personal expenses. This frequently ensnares politicians; Jesse Jackson, Jr. went to jail for using campaign monies for personal purposes, and Duncan Hunter was charged with doing so was charged with doing so yesterday.
If Donald Trump had used campaign funds to pay Stormy Daniels (and, I believe, one other woman), and reported the expenditures as campaign expenses, he would have been charged–fairly–with using campaign moneys for personal purposes. Instead, he did the right thing; he used his own money. So now the Democrats allege that he committed a campaign finance violation because the payment was really a campaign expenditure.
Trump was damned either way, but the claim of wrongdoing would have been much stronger if he had used campaign money. Then, he would have been in the same boat with Jesse Jackson, Jr. The simple reality is that his payments to the two women didn’t constitute campaign contributions because they were not contributions to his campaign.