The testimony of James Comey on Friday prompted a series of assertions by President Trump about the "lyin' and leakin'" former FBI director Comey — whom Trump famously fired shortly after taking office — and what appears to be one of the major focuses of the Robert Mueller investigation: Trump paying "hush money" to women who allegedly had affairs with him.
"'Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony. No Smocking Gun...No Collusion,'" he wrote, quoting a Fox News report (tweets below).
"That’s because there was NO COLLUSION," he continued. "So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution, which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s - 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). [Michael] Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced. WITCH HUNT!"
Trump's comments about Michael Cohen's plea deal revolves around his claim to Mueller that he directed "hush money" payments in the form of non-disclosure agreements on behalf of Trump to two women — porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playmate Karen McDougal — claiming to have had affairs in the past with Trump.
If those payments were in the service of protecting his campaign, Trump's critics maintain, Trump might be guilty of campaign finance violations. Trump, however, maintains that such a payment is simply a "private transaction" and thus perfectly legal. Worst case scenario, he suggests, he is simply guilty of something along the lines of Barack Obama's 2008 campaign, which was found guilty of campaign reporting violations and forced to pay a $375,000 fine. When those fines were first reported, Politico provided some details about the violations (formatting adjusted):
The major sticking point for the FEC appeared to be a series of missing 48-hour notices for nearly 1,300 contributions totaling more than $1.8 million — an issue that lawyers familiar with the commission’s work say the FEC takes seriously. The notices must be filed on contributions of $1,000 or more that are received within the 20-day window of Election Day. More than half of those contributions were transferred from the Obama Victory Fund,a joint committee between the campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Trump's tweets followed a series of posts focusing primarily on Comey's testimony Friday, which he said included 245 instances of Comey saying either he couldn't recall or didn't know in response to details about the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the beginning of the Trump-Russia collusion "witch hunt."
"On 245 occasions, former FBI Director James Comey told House investigators he didn’t know, didn’t recall, or couldn’t remember things when asked. Opened investigations on 4 Americans (not 2) - didn’t know who signed off and didn’t know Christopher Steele. All lies!" Trump wrote. "Leakin’ James Comey must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day. His Friday testimony was so untruthful! This whole deal is a Rigged Fraud headed up by dishonest people who would do anything so that I could not become President. They are now exposed!"
Prior to his Comey tweets, Trump quoted Fox's Geraldo Rivera, saying, "This is collusion illusion, there is no smoking gun here. At this late date, after all that we have gone through, after millions have been spent, we have no Russian Collusion. There is nothing impeachable here."