Trump Defends Hush Payment As "Private Transaction" As Bernstein Says "Trump Is Cornered"

After a dramatic Friday, in which US prosecutors sought prison time for Michael Cohen, Trump’s "fixer" for the payments they said were made in "coordination with and at the direction of" Trump, as well as on charges of evading taxes and lying to Congress, president Trump on Monday defended the hush money payments reported by his former lawyer, responding a day after Democratic lawmakers said the U.S. president could face impeachment and jail time if the transactions are proven to violate campaign finance laws

Trump said on Twitter that Democrats were wrongly targeting “a simple private transaction" after court filings last week drew renewed attention to six-figure payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign by Trump’s personal lawyer to two women so they would not discuss their alleged affairs with the candidate.

As we reported yesterday, U.S. Rep Jerrold Nadler, who will lead the Judiciary Committee when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in January, said on Sunday that if the payments were found to violate campaign finance laws it would be an impeachable offense. Upping the ante, his Democratic counterpart on the Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam Schiff, said Trump could be indicted once he leaves office and could “face the real prospect of jail time.”

Under U.S. law, campaign contributions, defined as things of value given to a campaign to influence an election, must be disclosed. Such payments are also limited to $2,700 per person.

Earlier this year, Trump admitted repaying his former lawyer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 paid to porn star Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels after previously disputed knowing anything about the payments. On Monday, the president again denied wrongdoing and sought to shift any blame to Cohen. One post misspelled the word “smoking” twice, drawing ridicule on Twitter.

“Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony. No Smocking Gun...No Collusion,” Trump wrote, referring to Fox News comment on the case.

“So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution, which it was not,” he wrote. He said that even if it were a campaign contribution it would amount to a civil case, adding, “but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me.”

Trump has denied affairs with Stormy Daniels and the other woman who Cohen said was given hush money, former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Meanwhile, legal experts are divided over whether a sitting president can be charged with a crime, as well as on whether a violation of campaign finance law would be an impeachable offense.

One person who is certain of the outcome however, is Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, who had an ominous assessment of recent developments in Donald Trump’s embattled presidency.

On Sunday morning’s edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter asked Bernstein to weigh in on the recent development that federal prosecutors now believe Trump directed Michael Cohen to commit felonies by paying off porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

As Mediaite reported, Stelter asked if Bernstein agrees with Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) that the offenses are impeachable.

Bernstein responded that "It certainly looks like they are the kind of offenses that would call for impeachment hearings into the conduct of the president of the United States,” but added that “there’s something much more important than just impeachment going on, and that is the fact that Donald Trump for the first time in his life is cornered."

“As a businessman, he always could bully his way out of a corner,” Bernstein continued. “He always could buy his way out, cheat his way out. He is boxed in by Mueller, and the people around him know that he is.”

Bernstein then gave a blistering assessment of Trump’s situation, telling Stelter that Trump faces “the question of collusion, possible collusion with Russia, and unquestionably a massive obstruction of justice that is now demonstrable for all to see, led by the president of the United States, to cover up whatever the dealings of himself, his family, his aides, were with Russia.

The Watergate reporter then added that “it’s clear that Mueller is now connecting the dots between a massive obstruction intended to hide the truth about the Trump campaign, Trump, his business organization, and his family from the investigators.”

Meanwhile, the president continues to console himself by insisting that recent developments “totally clear” him of wrongdoing, but Bernstein’s analysis can’t be ignored by everyone in Trump’s orbit. Time will tell how long Trump’s inner circle decides to remain in that corner with him.