Daily Video

December 12, 2018

How Michael Cohen violated campaign finance law



Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and then answer the discussion questions. Your students may find it helpful to follow along using the transcript.


Summary: On WednesdayMichael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s long-time attorney and fixer, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for several crimes, including arranging hush money payments to two women on Trump’s behalf during the 2016 presidential campaign. Prosecutors’ filings added more detail to their case against Cohen who they say violated federal election law. Prosecutors say “Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows” and intentionally tried to subvert the 2016 presidential election. Trump originally said he did not know anything about the payments and maintains he has nothing to do with them. Cohen had already pleaded guilty to other charges of campaign finance violations in August.


Discussion questions: 


1) What do you know about the Mueller investigation? Who is Michael Cohen? What actions has Cohen allegedly carried out that may put him in further criminal violation of campaign finance laws? You may want to use this breakdown by the BBC to help you.


2) Why does the U.S. have campaign finance laws? Do you think such laws are important? Explain your response.


3) What does it mean that the president’s lawyer violated campaign finance rules?


4) It is easy to get lost in the complicated language and layers involved in campaign election law. What could you do if you had questions or wanted to learn more about the Mueller investigation?


5) Why has it long been the case that sitting presidents cannot be indicted, or brought up on criminal charges? Do you agree with the idea that presidents should be treated differently even if they may have committed a felony? Why or why not?


6) Media literacy question: Rick Hasen is an election and campaign finance law scholar at UC Irvine School of Law. How could you find out more about Hasen’s background and expertise on election law? How do you think this interview may have gone differently if PBS had interviewed a member of the Trump administration or campaign and a member of the Clinton campaign?


Extension activity:


In the NewsHour article, “Mueller’s Russia report should be made public, new poll,” by Laura Sanatham, “Seventy-six percent of Americans said the final report from the special counsel probe should be released in full to the public.” Do you agree? Why or why not?


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