Trumped by his DOJ: Did Newsweek violate campaign laws by spiking its Monica story?

by WorldTribune Staff, December 18, 2018

The U.S. Department of Justice is part of the Executive Branch which is under President Donald Trump. And yet that agency is at war with the president as is the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York City, columnist Ira Stoll observed in the New York Sun.

“Perhaps if Mr. Trump moves to shut the whole thing down it will trigger outrage from Congress or the public about interfering into an ongoing criminal investigation into foreign interference with an American election,” he wrote. On the other hand, he might be doing the country and future president a favor, Stoll argued.

According to a court document released on Dec. 12, National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc. (AMI) said it coordinated a hush-money payment with President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

AMI’s confession was part of an immunity agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office in New York. It came after former Trump attorney Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison over charges of tax fraud, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress.

“The AMI ‘non-prosecution agreement’ is just one piece of the bigger story of President Trump’s own Justice Department trying to undermine the presidency itself,” Stoll wrote in the Dec. 17 edition.

Apparently, the National Enquirer’s failure to publish an article about Trump amounts to an undisclosed campaign contribution to the Trump campaign. If so, Stoll noted, “how much did the New York Times contribute to the Trump campaign with the articles it actually did publish about Hillary Clinton’s private email server?”

“Imagine that a federal prosecutor had gone after The Washington Post Company back in the 1990s on the theory that the reluctance of its magazine, Newsweek, to publish an article about a sex scandal involving Bill Clinton constituted an illegal campaign contribution to the Clinton campaign,” Stoll wrote. “The ensuing outcry and fear that prosecutors would begin substituting their own news judgment for that of editors wouldn’t have been limited to First Amendment absolutists like Nat Hentoff. It would almost certainly have been widely shared. And justifiably so.”

Stoll continued: “As Newsweek itself eventually found out via Matt Drudge, and as the framers of the First Amendment well understood, free-market competition is better regulation of press behavior than any second-guessing by government lawyers threatening criminal prosecution based on creative theories of campaign finance law.”

Newsweek is now merely a shadow if its former status as a major news magazine.

Meanwhile, as federal prosecutors in New York “are happily announcing the imposition of ‘remedial measures’ and ‘annual training’ with ‘required attendance’ for a media company – not a peep of protest has been heard from the Freedom Forum, the professors of journalism, the Committee to Protect Journalists, or the rest of the industry whose level of self-regard was recently demonstrated by Time’s decision to make journalists their persons of the year,” Stoll wrote.

The Russia investigation “also involves targeting Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, with a perjury trap along the lines of which none other than Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself has warned,” Stoll wrote.

“The American people would be receptive to an argument that if you want to defeat a president, you need to do it by running against him in an election rather than by pushing the prosecutorial envelope with perjury traps and novel interpretations of campaign finance law.

“If Mr. Trump can make that case, it’d be a win not just for his own presidency but for the office itself. Future occupants of the office, Democrat or Republican, would be grateful, as would be citizens whose security depends on a president able to focus on the job with a boldness un-sapped by prosecutorial excess,” Stoll concluded.

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