As the possibility of Donald Trump’s indictment becomes more apparent, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg isn’t the only Democrat on Republicans’ minds. Evidently, some in the GOP are also thinking about the Clintons.
Rep. Andy Biggs, for example, claimed this week that he now has evidence of “a two-tier justice system.” His proof: Bill Clinton paid Paula Jones in a civil settlement in the 1990s. “Now President Trump does something similar and the [Manhattan district attorney] wants to jail him,” the right-wing Arizonan argued.
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Biggs probably should’ve thought this through a bit more — because the cases aren’t “similar” at all. Unlike Trump, Clinton didn’t pay hush money; he simply settled a civil case. What’s more, Clinton didn’t try to keep the settlement secret, which is pretty much the opposite of what happened between Trump, Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels.
But as it turns out, the Arizonan wasn’t the only one thinking about the Clintons.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy spoke to reporters yesterday and was asked whether GOP lawmakers have concerns about whether Trump might have “falsified business records to cover for hush money payments to cover up this alleged affair with an adult film actress.” The California Republican responded:
“Look, the thing I think about, it was interesting, someone briefed me on the use of money in a situation like this before. You probably covered this. Remember when the DNC and Hillary Clinton paid the law firm a million dollars and said that it was for something else, and we found out later it wasn’t. It was all about the Russian inclusion, it wasn’t for the legal part. So they went through, and they got investigated. A million dollars they spent, and you know what, at the end of the day, they didn’t get arrested. They got fined.”
It was at that point that the House speaker emphasized his “equal justice” talking point, effectively making the case that if Clinton wasn’t arrested for her campaign finance controversy, then Trump shouldn’t be arrested for his.
But just as Biggs didn’t fully appreciate the details of his Clinton-related comparison, McCarthy’s pitch didn’t quite work either, for reasons he should’ve understood.
It’s true that Clinton’s 2016 campaign agreed to a civil penalty of $8,000 in the recent past stemming from an FEC investigation into how campaign money for Christopher Steele’s dossier was reported. But as a Washington Post report explained soon after, “This analogy isn’t terribly strong, given, first, that the campaign and the Democratic National Committee faced punishment for the reporting and, second, that it centered on the mechanics of properly reporting campaign spending to the FEC.”
In other words, McCarthy described Trump’s hush money scandal as being “a situation like” the investigation into Clinton’s campaign finance filings, but the closer one looked, the less sense this made.
But let’s also not brush past the disconnect between the question and the speaker’s answer. A reporter asked McCarthy about possible concerns that Trump allegedly “falsified business records to cover for hush money payments to cover up this alleged affair with an adult film actress.” The very first thought the California Republican had was to focus on Hillary Clinton.
The King of Whataboutism strikes again.