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FEC issues new punishment in Trump's hush money scandal

Michael Cohen was punished. So was the National Enquirer's parent company. But what about Individual One who was at the center of commissioning the crimes?


Ahead of Donald Trump's narrow 2016 victory, the Republican and his operation didn't just receive outside support from Russia, it also benefited from illegal assistance from the National Enquirer tabloid and its parent company.

As the New York Times reported overnight, the fallout from the scandal is still being felt.

The tabloid publishing company that paid $150,000 to a former Playboy model in 2016 to suppress her account of an alleged affair with Donald J. Trump, then a presidential candidate, has agreed to pay $187,500 to the Federal Election Commission to settle accusations that the company violated campaign finance law in making the payment. The commission found that the firm, American Media Inc., and its former chief executive, David J. Pecker, had "knowingly and willfully" violated campaign laws by secretly routing the $150,000 payment to the former model, Karen McDougal, in coordination with senior officials with the Trump campaign, including Michael D. Cohen, who served as Mr. Trump's personal lawyer at the time.

I can appreciate how difficult it is to keep track of Trump scandals -- the former president was at the center of a staggering number of controversies -- but this was among the more sordid tales.

As Election Day 2016 drew closer, the then-Republican candidate and his operation were concerned about how the public might react to revelations that he had multiple alleged extra-marital affairs with women from the adult-entertainment industry. To that end, Trump had his fixer, Michael Cohen, make an illegal hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.

But it was around the same time when the public was also poised to learn about Trump's alleged affair with former Playboy model Karen McDougal. American Media Inc. (AMI), the National Enquirer parent company, intervened with a "catch and kill" scheme: the supermarket tabloid would buy the rights to McDougal's story and then bury it.

The company ultimately admitted in 2018 that it worked with Trump's campaign -- and Michael Cohen, in particular -- to advance the Republican's candidacy, in defiance of federal campaign finance laws. AMI avoided prosecution by cooperating with investigators, but it was nevertheless subject to Federal Election Commission penalties, which came to light yesterday.

And while this effectively resolves the controversy, CNBC's report touched on an important detail: "The Federal Election Commission will let former President Donald Trump avoid punishment for directing hush money payments to his alleged ex-mistress Karen McDougal — but the publisher of The National Enquirer agreed to pay more than $187,500 for its role in the scandal, records showed Tuesday."

The fact that Trump keeps avoiding consequences for his actions is the common thread that ties together so many of these stories.

It was just last month, for example, when we learned that Federal Election Commission officials recommended further investigation into Trump in the Stormy Daniels scandal, at which point Republican commissioners -- the ones appointed by Trump -- intervened to ensure that the former president got away with his alleged misdeeds.

The Republican commissioners who voted not to proceed with an investigation, Trey Trainor and Sean Cooksey, said that pursuing the case was "not the best use of agency resources," that "the public record is complete" already and that Mr. Cohen had already been punished.

Well, yes, Cohen was punished, and the National Enquirer's parent company was punished, too.

But what about Individual One who was at the center of commissioning the crimes?