Congressman Ted Lieu represents California’s 33rd Congressional District. Elected in 2014, Congressman Lieu serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is also an Assistant Whip for the Democratic Caucus. Congressman Lieu is a former active duty officer, who currently serves as Colonel in the US Air Force Reserves. He is an alumni of Stanford University and Georgetown Law.
Last week was a bad week for President Donald Trump. Special counsel Robert Mueller secured a guilty verdict against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, while his former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in the Southern District of New York to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud.
Attempting to minimize the damage, Trump tweeted that Cohen’s campaign finance violations “are not a crime.” Anyone who understands the law knows that Trump is wrong from a legal perspective. But just as importantly, this response underscores Trump’s lack of respect for and understanding of the way campaign finance laws protect our democracy and maintain the integrity of our electoral process.
As former prosecutors, we know that in our system of justice a person cannot plead guilty to something that’s not a crime — the judge, prosecutor and defense counsel would never allow it. Now that we’ve settled that, here’s the real problem: Trump is undermining not just the rule of law, but specifically laws that are specifically designed to prevent candidates from rigging the system to get elected.
Cohen’s guilty plea (and the conviction of Manafort on the same day) represent a rapid escalation in the scrutiny and criminal liability that Trump and his associates are currently facing. Cohen’s admission of guilt won’t just result in him becoming a felon, the plea also directly implicates the president. During his plea hearing, Cohen stated these payments were made at the direction of Trump.
Moral questions aside, these payments represent violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Count seven of the indictment references an unlawful corporate contribution regarding a $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal, someone who claimed to have had an…