If cops want to charge you with DUI, they don't have to prove that you knew the legal blood alcohol limit -- they just introduce the breathalyzer results. If they want to charge you as a drug dealer, they don't have to prove that you knew how much marijuana transforms a simple possession charge into intent to distribute narcotics -- they just put your reefer on a scale. And if you are a non-citizen who accidentally votes, the state of Texas will send you to jail for eight years, without having to prove that you knowingly violated the statute. Because ignorance of the law is no defense.

Unless you're a rich asshole trying to buy a politician, in which case the rules are different for you. Please enjoy this fine Yale Law Journal article on the subject, or you can just take our word for it that a campaign finance conviction requires the prosecutor to prove that the defendant knew the law and willfully chose to violate it. So if you are charged with violating the Federal Elections Campaign Act, the Dumbass Defense is your best friend.

President Dumbass is currently embroiled in a campaign finance scandal over hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, ladies who inexplicably chose to bump their bits against that orange excrescence and his misshapen mushroom member. It's a weird world! The president's "attorney" Rudy Giuliani is busily arglebargling nonsense to any reporter he can reach, as all the best lawyers do.

But the facts of these cases aren't really in dispute. Before the election, Trump and his lawyer sat down with the National Enquirer and worked out a deal for the magazine to scoop up stories that might harm his campaign, for which Trump would later reimburse it. When Trump's publisher pal David Pecker balked at paying off a porn star, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen fronted the money himself and was later reimbursed through false invoices submitted to the Trump Organization. Even if these were all campaign finance violations on their face, prosecutors would still have to prove that Trump knew that he was doing something against the law in order to convict him. And even a blowhard like Trump wouldn't be such a fool as to get caught on tape bragging about his extensive knowledge of campaign finance law, would he?

I think nobody knows more about campaign finance than I do, because I'm the biggest contributor.

Oh, FFS! This video from 1999, played last night on CNN by Don Lemon, may make it harder for Trump to claim ignorance of the vagaries of campaign finance law. As will this affidavit unearthed by the Wall Street Journal from a 2000 FEC investigation of Trump for illegally bundling campaign finance contributions like a common Dinesh D'Souza. Trump didn't insist that his employees donate to the New Jersey state senator representing Atlantic City, and he didn't collect the checks personally. He just let the senator's staff collect money at the door. So, totally kosher!

The Journal also dug up another affidavit from 1988 where Trump gave a 10-page lecture on campaign finance limits to the New York Commission of Government Integrity. Did Trump understand that he was making a donation to a political campaign when he guaranteed loans for a candidate? He sure did!

And if you're thinking that's almost exactly what Michael Cohen did when he advanced money to Stormy Daniels, you win the Wonkette No Prize of the day! Trump also explained that funneling donations through his various real estate companies wasn't a clandestine violation of campaign finance limits, since everyone knew he owned the buildings.

So maybe that Dumbass Defense isn't going to fly for a guy who spent 30 years going right up to the legal limit on campaign donations, if not over it. Pretty hard to claim you were a naive newbie when you've bragged for decades about your encyclopedic knowledge of campaign finance law. And the elaborate coverup scheme is pretty strong evidence that Trump knew those payments weren't going to fly with the FEC.

And if you want to get really into the weeds, enjoy this terrific episode of On Topic, legal expert Renato Mariotti's podcast, where he sits down with former FEC Chairman Trevor Potter and former White House Counsel Bob Bauer to discuss all the ways that Trump's "John Edwards Defense" and his "My Lawyer Made Me Do It Defense" are just bullshit.

TL, DR? STFU, Poppy! You knew this shit was hinky as hell, and you tried to hide it. Now all those chickens are coming home to roost. Cluck, cluck!

[Yale Law Journal / WSJ / Trump Affidavit, 2000 Trump Affidavit, 1988]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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