Trump doubled down on claim that campaign-finance violations are common, but he missed the key difference between his situation and others

Trump doubled down on claim that campaign-finance violations are common, but he missed the key difference between his situation and others

Donald Trump

Carlos Barria/Reuters

President Donald Trump.

  • President Donald Trump tweeted a denial about violating campaign finance laws.
  • He aimed to diminish the severity of campaign violations stating they are civil cases.
  • President Obama's campaign was fined for a civil violation in 2013.
  • That differs from the criminal matters that Michael Cohen implicated Trump in when he pleaded guilty to crimes and was sentenced to three years in December.

President Donald Trump on Saturday denied once again that he broke campaign finance law, while aiming to diminish the severity of such violations.

"Many people currently a part of my opposition, including President Obama & the Dems, have had campaign violations, in some cases for very large sums of money," he tweeted. "These are civil cases. They paid a fine & settled. While no big deal, I did not commit a campaign violation!"

It's the same argument he made in August when his personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign violations. Like his tweet from August, his statement ignored a key difference between civil violations and criminal matters in federal campaign-finance law.

Read more: Trump appears to have a misunderstanding of campaign-finance law, and may have inadvertently admitted to breaking the law as a result


In 2013 the Federal Election Commission fined President Obama's 2008 campaign $375,000. The fine pertained to a number of campaign finance violations including missing deadlines to file paperwork around large donations and reporting the wrong dates on certain donations, according to NBC.

The Obama campaign was not found to have "knowingly and willfully" violated campaign finance law, and therefore was only fined for civil violations, The Huffington Post reported.

Trump is implicated in his own set of campaign-finance violations that would be considered criminal in nature were his campaign found guilty.

In December, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for a number of crimes including facilitating hush-money payments to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said they had affairs with the president.

Cohen stated under oath that Trump directed him to break the law and that he did so out of out of "blind loyalty" to the president. Breaking campaign finance law "knowingly and willfully" is a criminal matter rather than a civil violation.


Trump's lawyers argue that the payments don't constitute violations because they were made in the interest of protecting his family and businesses, rather than winning the 2016 presidential election.

Whether that's the case is a matter for a court to decide.