White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is holding a press briefing at 2:15 p.m. on August 22. It will be the first time that Sanders addresses the press since former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight counts of tax and bank fraud and Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal attorney, pleaded guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.
You can watch live video of the briefing above.
The briefing comes after a devastating day for the Trump White House, with Cohen’s guilty plea and the jury’s finding in the Manafort case coming almost simultaneously in federal courts in Manhattan and Virginia. On Wednesday, Trump responded to the court proceedings on Twitter, writing, “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”
He also tweeted, “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” and “Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!”
According to The Washington Post, Trump’s comparison of alleged campaign violations by Obama to what Cohen pleaded guilty to is “entirely wrong.” Philip Bump wrote for The Post:
It’s certainly true that both Cohen’s admissions and the Obama campaign did things that were “campaign finance violations” in the same way that your lifting a candy bar from a convenience store as a kid and what Bernie Madoff did are both “stealing.” Which isn’t to say that the Obama campaign’s violations weren’t serious. It’s just to note that broad legal terms can cover a variety of actions.
So what did Obama do? Well, Obama didn’t do anything, really. His campaign — Obama For America — failed to report 1,300 contributions within 48 hours as required by law. It also received some campaign contributions that exceeded allowable limits from a donor for a campaign cycle and others that had incorrect dates. In total, the contributions at issue amounted to about $2 million, and the campaign paid $375,000 in fines.
What Trump is alleged to have done is to have personally instructed his attorney to facilitate an illegal contribution by a corporation with the goal of burying a negative story before the campaign and, in another case, having that attorney make an illegal payment to hide another damaging allegation. Unlike the Obama example, the violation was allegedly intentional. Unlike the Obama example, Trump and Cohen then proceeded to lie about what took place for months — until Cohen’s admission in court.
Some additional context that will shed light on the difference between what Trump did and what the Obama campaign did. A few weeks after the 2016 election, the Trump campaign also paid a fine for improperly handling campaign contributions. About 1,100 donations made to Trump’s campaign violated campaign finance laws, including donations that exceeded the allowable limit in a year.
Meanwhile, Trump told Fox News’ he only found out about the payments Cohen made to two women who said they had affairs with him after the fact and he said the funds came from him, not his campaign. “Later on I knew,” Trump told Fox News Channel, according to the New York Times. “And they’re weren’t taken out of campaign finance … They didn’t come out of the campaign; they came from me.”
He added, “”My first question, when I heard about it, was, ‘Did they come out of the campaign,’ because that could be a little dicey. And they didn’t come out of the campaign, and that’s big. It’s not even a campaign violation.”