New York prosecutors' pursuit of Trump collides with a Hillary Clinton double standard

Clinton disguised payment for Steele dossier as legal bill and walked away with fine but Trump to face trial for listing a non-disclosure payment as a legal expense.

Published: April 5, 2023 11:07pm

In 2016, two New York-based candidates ran for president. Both listed expenses believed to be tied to their campaigns as legal bills. One, Hillary Clinton, walked away with a fine and no prosecution. The other, Donald J. Trump, is facing trial on 34 felonies in Manhattan state court.

The differing treatments of Clinton and Trump for transactions that are now nearly seven years old has reinvigorated a raging debate about whether America has drifted into a two-tier system of justice rife with seemingly double standards.

Brett Tolman, a former U.S. attorney and Senate Judiciary Committee counsel, said Wednesday the judicial system appears to be lurching toward a point of political weaponization that may have no return. 

"I said earlier that we would not truly appreciate the gravity of the moment we are standing in, in terms of its historical significance," told the Just the News, Not Noise television show. "It'll be many years probably until we do. But the the reason I've said that before is we will start to see now, the political decision making at the highest levels in our in our justice system. And the weaponization is only the beginning.

"It will now be wielded without that sobriety and without that service to the law and the facts. And without the impartiality. So the Lady Justice is no longer blind. The blindfold has been taken off, and whoever wields the sword is the one who is administering justice." 

Trump's campaign was run in 2016 out of his iconic Trump Tower in Manhattan. On Tuesday he was arraigned on 34 charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleging that he violated the law by listing in his private company's books repayments to his now convicted lawyer Michael Cohen as legal bills when prosecutor allege they were to cover hush-money payments in 2016 to a porn star who threatened to go public with tawdry tales before Election Day.

In contrast, Clinton ran her campaign out of a different New York City borough, Brooklyn, but faced no prosecution when her campaign and the Democratic National Committee disguised payments for the opposition research known as the Steele dosser that kicked off the Russia collusion scandal as legal compliance costs for her law firm.

The Federal Election Commission fined the campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), according to a letter made public last year

The commission found the campaign and DNC had made over $1 million in  total payments to the opposition research firm Fusion GPS through its law firm, tagging it as, "legal and compliance consulting" when in fact it was for research related to the dossier, according to the letter made public by the Coolidge and Reagan Foundation that filed the original complaint.

Investigators also "found probable cause to believe" the improper labeling of the payments violated federal election law and eventually reached an agreement. 

The Clinton campaign agreed to pay an $8,000 fine while the DNC agreed payed a much larger sum of $105,000. In addition, both parties promised not to violate these requirements in the future.

The contrasting outcomes not only caught legal experts' attention, they generated quite some outrage on social media this week after Trump's court appearance.

"Blatant double standard against Pres. Trump," former Just the News TV anchor Carrie Sheffield tweeted. "Hillary Clinton NOT arrested when her campaign paid $113,000 to settle FEC investigation into whether she violated campaign finance law by misreporting spending on opposition research that became Steele dossier.

Conservative commentators Jack Posobiec and Charlie Kirk agreed.

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Radio host and former California Larry Elder mentioned Bill Clinton and the sexual misconduct allegations made against him, while adding that he -- nor Hillary -- has ever faced criminal charges despite calls for investigations. 

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"BClinton accused by Juanita Broaddrick of rape; BClinton accused of sexual battery by Paula Jones; BClinton accused of sexual battery by Kathleen Willey; HClinton fined for using campaign money for Steele dossier; HClinton CLEARLY violates the Espionage Act—NO CRIMINAL CHARGES?!?" he wrote. 

This is also potentially reflective of the famous debate moment from 2016 between Clinton and Trump when Clinton said, "it's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country." To which Trump replied, "Because you'd in jail," causing the audience to erupt and moderator Anderson Cooper to admonish them.

The irony has not been lost on the nation as Trump's trial moves forward and the Clintons face no threat of prosecution. 

GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy offered a novel solution to erase the perceptions of a double standard.

"Bragg’s prosecution sets a dangerous precedent that will lead to many more politically targeted prosecutions," Ramaswamy tweeted. "Biden can unify the country by issuing a pardon now. If he fails to do so & I am elected president, I will pardon Trump on Jan. 20, 2025."

You can follow Nick on Twitter @NGivasDC

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