THOMPSON: Here's hoping the jury in Trump's hush money trial does the right thing | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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THOMPSON: Here's hoping the jury in Trump's hush money trial does the right thing

 


OPINION


Irony - perhaps like so many words - is not one that Donald Trump fully understands. And yet, it is irony that could turn him from defendant, to convicted felon.

Trump is nearing the end of his so-called hush-money trial…a lurid tale that centred on his dalliance with adult-film star Stormy Daniels at a charity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in July 2006. Daniels - whose real name is Stephanie Clifford - alleges she and Trump had sex…while his wife, Melania, was home with their new baby.

A decade later…and four days before the 2016 election pitting Trump against Hillary Clinton, Daniels was paid $130,000 to keep her from a tell-all interview about the affair with ABC’s Good Morning America.

Trump was still trying to weather negative publicity from the Washington Post report on Oct. 7, 2016 of a taped conversation between himself and television host Billy Bush. The two were having a lewd conversation about women in Sept. 2005, and were captured on a live mic on a bus before filming an episode of “Access Hollywood”.

Trump was bragging about how he could do anything with women, even “Grab ’em by the *ussy.” Another accusation of infidelity…especially with a porn star as his wife and new baby were home…would likely have scuttled the election.

To be clear, hush-money payments aren’t illegal per se. But much like the Watergate scandal four decades earlier…the cover-up would be the greater problem. Michael Cohen - Trump’s attorney and “fixer” at the time - orchestrated the payoff at Trump’s direction - pled guilty to eight felony counts, including campaign-finance violations, tax and bank fraud in 2018, and is serving 18 months in prison.

Despite the sensational sexual aspects of Trump’s hush-money trial…the real evidence amounts to rather boring documents labelled by the prosecution as Exhibits 35 and 36. Exhibit 35 was a Michael Cohen bank statement with detailed notes from Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.

Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 in hush money from his personal finances, and Weisselberg’s notes calculated the amounts Cohen should be reimbursed as $420,000 to account for income taxes he would be liable for, as well as a $50,000 bonus. The reimbursement payments made Cohen “whole”, according to Weisselberg, and were disguised on tax filings as Cohen’s legal fee income.

Exhibit 36 is a detailed note from former Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney. On Trump letterhead, it corroborated Cohen’s and Weisselberg’s testimony that Cohen was reimbursed $420,000 for his $130,000 payment to Keith Davidson, Daniels’ then-attorney, to kill the interview.

Trump and his minions had to resort to their scheme - forming a shell company and paying hush-money from Cohen’s personal finances - because David Pecker, the publisher of The National Enquirer, refused to be “the bank” and pay Stormy Daniels, after paying others over the years.

Remember, Pecker agreed to help his friend Donald Trump by executing a “catch and kill’ about the affair…a tabloid newspaper action that pays for an exclusive story…with the intention of never running it.

Between Weisselberg’s and McConney’s explicit notes, as well as Cohen’s and Daniels’ testimony, and Trump’s admission in an earlier court proceeding that he reimbursed Cohen…you couldn’t ask for a more clear road map proving Trump’s 34 felony counts of falsifying records.

It’s as if Al Capone had left a personal diary detailing the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of seven Bugs Moran gang members in that Chicago garage saying, “Yeah, I, Al Capone, planned these killings!” The evidence is overwhelming…there is no doubt…certainly no reasonable doubt.

But, sadly, that does not mean necessarily that justice will be served…and Donald Trump could be found guilty. There are too many off-ramps that could leave Trump unscathed. One juror - despite the evidence - can simply hold out. Trump supporters deny truth every day.

There is, too, the simple fact that Trump is a powerful white man - and though not the billionaire he claims - he is wealthy compared to the average American. Powerful, wealthy white men have had their way in America for nearly 250 years. On appeal, a perverse judicial system littered with incompetent Conservative judges could easily overturn a conviction.

The trial is following the rule of law so far…and I hope that the jury will do the right thing. But I’m not overly confident because the Republican Right is dismantling democracy even as you read this.

I’m reminded of the old saw, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…” Well, you got yourself a duck. Donald Trump is the biggest duck you’ll ever see.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.


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