VIDEO: Trevor Potter Interviewed on "Face the Nation" Concerning President Trump's Multiple Investigations
On December 16, 2018, Trevor Potter -- the head of Caplin & Drysdale’s Political Law Group in Washington, D.C. -- spoke with Margaret Brennan on Face the Nation concerning the multiple investigations President Trump and his campaign are facing. Below is a transcript from the interview, and please visit this link to view the interview.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Today's Washington Post makes the observation about President Trump that "…nearly every organization that he's led in the past decade is under investigation." To help us make sense of where we are in some of those investigations, we're joined now by Trevor Potter. He is the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and our CBS news correspondent Paula Reid, who has been covering the Trump investigations. And you have your plateful there, Paula, with that description there. First off, I want to let you respond, was there anything there in the defense of Michael Cohen from Lanny Davis that stood out to you?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Trevor, in an op-ed this week, you say that the President could become the target of a very serious campaign finance investigation--a criminal one. One of the defenders of the President say, "This-- this is small ball. This isn't something that actually gets-- while it gets to the doorstep of the President, it doesn't actually become something that could really become a legal issue for him." Why do you disagree?
TREVOR POTTER (Former FEC Chairman/Campaign Legal Center President/@thetrevorpotter): Well, it's been an extraordinary week. You had the President's lawyer, Mister Giuliani say, "It's not a big deal, no one was killed." That is not the standard for the President of the United States in terms of complying with the law or all of these people around him. Now if it were, we wouldn't have bank fraud prosecutions, money laundering; all sorts of other issues. What we have is a law that's central to our election system, to our democracy that requires full disclosure of campaign spending and prohibits corporate money from being given to a candidate. And--
MARGARET BRENNAN: And that's where the AMI disclosure matters.
TREVOR POTTER: Correct. The-- the owners of the National Enquirer who agreed, apparently in a meeting with candidate Trump to use their corporate money to buy the story and prevent the American public from knowing about it right in the middle of the run-up to the general election.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The President's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, says none of this really is illegal because it wasn't direct campaign finance money. These were private payments.
TREVOR POTTER: Well, they weren't private payments, it turns out they were by a corporation or by Mister Cohen in amounts in excess of what he could give. But I think the bigger picture here is the attempt to hide all this from the public. I mean, the Supreme Court has said the central to our campaign finance system is full disclosure of money being spent. Instead, what we have seen is this pattern of trying to deceive the public and hide the-- the sources of money and, as I've said, in some cases what apparently are illegal sources of money.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Paula, when it comes to the special counsel's investigation, putting the other ones aside, how close are we to the conclusion of this?
PAULA REID: Rudy Giuliani and others, they've consistently said for months that it's wrapping up. I think just a couple of moments ago, he said, "Oh, it's just down to parking tickets." Well, that's just not true. And we know that's not true for a few reasons. First of all, we still have the outstanding issues surrounding the prosecution of Paul Manafort. He won't even be sentenced until February in one case, and then March in another. We also know that the grand jury continues to hear from witnesses. Now we know they've called witnesses regarding Roger Stone. We know they are in talks with Jerome Corsi about a possible plea deal that appears to fall through. I mean, to resolve all of these things, this is going to take months. So, anyone that suggests that this is all wrapping up, that is just not true.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you're projecting out to the spring?
PAULA REID: Likely, yes. At least until March, I mean, that's when Manafort will be sentenced. And the special counsel continues to exist until each one of its discreet cases is completely resolved.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Trevor, in your op-ed, I mean, you take a kind of bleak view about what all of this means for the state of the country. You say there's really just deterioration in respect for the rule of law.
TREVOR POTTER: Well, I-- I think the point there is that you have the defenders of the President as well as the President himself saying that violations of law don't matter. And I don't think that's where we are as a country. We believe in the rule of law. You could make the argument, well, it's more or less important. I obviously think it's more important. But to-- to say we're just going to ignore violations of law because it's politically convenient to, we don't want to talk about it is I think a real problem for the-- the country. These are laws that were enacted after the Watergate reforms, when we learned the problems of corruption, of secret money in elections, of payments of hush money. Richard Nixon's lawyer went to jail for payments of hush money that were cash payments not disclosed. And I-- and I think the-- the point that Paula makes is an important one which is there are a lot of investigations all of a sudden. You open every door and there is potentially illegal activity behind it. The inaugural committee we now know about. Last week, the plea by the Russian woman who was working with the NRA and organizing trips to Moscow and organizing Russians to meet American politicians, all of this connected to different aspects of the Trump campaign with a number of U.S. Attorney's Offices looking at it. So, it's not just the special counsel at this stage and they all involve people who are close to the President, including--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
TREVOR POTTER: --family members.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Trevor, thank you. Paula, always good to have you on.