It’s no secret that Judge Jeanine Pirro is one of Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters on Fox News. When you may be only the fourth-most loyal Trump supporter on that network–behind Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham–that says a lot.
On Saturday night, Pirro showed us just how loyal she still is to the Donald. She tried to convince the nation that it’s not illegal to pay hush money to your former honies in order to keep them quiet until an election is over.
Just 24 hours earlier, federal prosecutors in Manhattan detonated the legal equivalent of a quarter-stick of dynamite when they released their sentencing memo for former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. Earlier this spring, Cohen pleaded guilty to a litany of campaign finance violations and financial crimes, some of which he committed at Trump’s behest.
In the most lurid disclosure of all, Cohen admitted arranging hush money payments to two of Trump’s former mistresses, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, in hopes they wouldn’t run to the media and tell all before the 2016 presidential election. He paid Daniels $130,000 through a shell corporation created for the purpose, and arranged for American Media, parent of the rabidly pro-Trump National Enquirer, to pay $150,000 to McDougal.
But according to prosecutors, it went much further than that. They stated that Cohen arranged those payments “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1”–a man whom we all know is Trump.
Those payments, as we all know, were illegal. The payment to Daniels amounted to an illegal in-kind donation to the Trump campaign that far exceeded the limit of $2,700 for individual donations to a campaign. The payment to McDougal amounted to an illegal corporate donation to the Trump campaign from American Media.
Any competent reading of that memo makes the implication obvious. Federal prosecutors have effectively implicated the president of the United States in a felony conspiracy. But that’s not what Judge Jeanine would have you believe.
The “Opening Statements” on Saturday’s edition of “Justice with Judge Jeanine” are almost always a smorgasbord of alternative facts, and Saturday’s edition was no exception. Pirro claimed–with a straight face–that the memo was a nothing burger. Watch here.
Pirro appeared to suggest St. Andrew’s Plaza was barking up the wrong tree when it implicated Trump for orchestrating the illegal payments to Daniels and McDougal. She suggested that there were perfectly good reasons for those payments.
Maybe he didn’t want his wife to find out. Maybe he didn’t want his family to find out. Maybe he was trying to prevent any tarnish on his brand. Or maybe to simply get the woman off his back. It wouldn’t be the first time that a high-profile person paid to get rid of a nuisance lawsuit.
Judge Jeanine went on to argue that the payments were made while Trump was still a private citizen, and not a penny of campaign money was spent on them.
Pirro was a prosecutor in Westchester County, north of New York City, for 16 years, a judge for two years, and Westchester County district attorney for 12 years. With that experience, she has to know this argument is baloney. Long-standing precedent holds that paying someone to keep quiet about information that could damage a campaign is an in-kind contribution to that campaign.
So even though no campaign money was spent, the donations were still unlawful. If federal prosecutors are to be believed, Trump was directly responsible for those payments. In light of this, with apologies to Politifact, Judge Jeanine’s argument is Pants on Fire wrong.
If I heard right, by suggesting that those payments were made to protect Trump’s brand, Pirro may have tacitly admitted that her entire argument was an alternative fact. After all, when you are running for office, your brand counts for everything. As a former elected official herself, Pirro almost certainly knows this.
This came less than 24 hours after Alan Dershowitz claimed that Robert Mueller was trying to rack people up for political sins rather than real crimes. And now Judge Jeanine is trying to convince us that paying hush money isn’t a crime. Is Fox News trying to convince the nation that crimes aren’t really crimes? It certainly looks like it.
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