This Might Be the Only Way Trump Can Avoid Criminal Charges

Conservative Andrew C. McCarthy wrote Sunday that there’s one way for President Donald Trump to dodge possible prosecution for campaign finance violations: win re-election. The statue of limitations for the offense is five years, he wrote in an op-ed published to Fox News.

“If President Trump were to win re-election, he would not be out of office until 2024, when the five-year statute of limitations on a 2016 offense would have lapsed,” wrote McCarthy, a contributing editor of the National Review, and former federal prosecutor.

This comes after federal prosecutors released their sentencing memos against Trump’s old attorney Michael Cohen. They say the president’s former “fixer” implicated him in campaign finance violations.

From the memo [citation removed, emphasis ours]:

During the campaign, Cohen played a central role in two similar schemes to purchase the rights to stories – each from women who claimed to have had an affair with Individual-1 – so as to suppress the stories and thereby prevent them from influencing the election. With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election. Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. … In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1.

So if that’s the case, why hasn’t the Southern District of New York charged “Individual-1” with a crime? Cohen pleaded guilty in August to multiple financial crimes, including campaign finance violations. This could land Trump in very real trouble in criminal court.

Historically, the Department of Justice balked at the idea that a sitting president could be indicted, because doing so would interfere with the execution of executive branch responsibility. Assuming the SDNY (or you know, Special Counsel Robert Mueller) believed Trump committed a crime, it’s possible prosecutors would need to take this point-of-view into consideration.

McCarthy argued Sunday that it’s “very likely” for Trump to be indicted on a charge of violating campaign finance laws. He pointed out that the president does have some possible defenses, and said that prosecutors would have to do a lot to prove intent.

“President Trump could argue that because there was no spending limit on his contributions, he did not think about the campaign-finance implications, much less willfully violate them,” he wrote.

He also said Trump could argue that the payments had nothing to do with the campaign. In other words, there would have had to have been a payment even in the absence of the presidential race.

[Image via Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images]

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