Cohen, Trump, and Campaign Finance Law

December 13, 2018


President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to several crimes, including illegally making hush money payments to two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who claimed they had affairs with then-candidate Trump. On this episode, campaign finance law experts Rick Hasen, a law professor at UC Irvine and co-editor of Election Law Journal, and Brad Smith, former chair of the FEC and founder of the Institute for Free Speech, debate the campaign finance laws at issue, explore precedents like the John Edwards case, and consider possible legal liability for President Trump. They also dive into other current election and campaign finance law issues, including the case involving Donald Trump Jr. Jeffrey Rosen hosts.


Note: An early transcript of the podcast is linked here. This text may not be in its final form, accuracy may vary, and it may be updated or revised in the future.


Rick Hasen is Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. He was the founding co-editor of Election Law Journal and blogs at the Election Law Blog, and his work has appeared in numerous law journals and media outlets.

Bradley Smith is chairman and founder of the Institute for Free Speech, the Josiah H. Blackmore II/Shirley M. Nault Designated Professor of Law at Capital University Law School, and a visiting fellow in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. He served on the Federal Election Commission from 2000 to 2005. He is the author of several explainers (Article I Section 2 and the 15th Amendment) for our Interactive Constitution.

​​​​​​Jeffrey Rosen is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center, the only institution in America chartered by Congress “to disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a nonpartisan basis.” 

Additional Resources

Our Interactive Constitution is the leading digital resource about the debates and text behind the greatest vision of human freedom in history, the U.S. Constitution. Here, scholars from across the legal and philosophical spectrum interact with each other to explore the meaning of each provision of our founding document. 


This episode was engineered by Kevin Kilbourne and produced by Jackie McDermott. Research was provided by Lana Ulrich and Jackie McDermott.

Stay Connected and Learn More

Continue today’s conversation on Facebook and Twitter using @ConstitutionCtr.

Sign up to receive Constitution Weekly, our email roundup of constitutional news and debate, at

Please subscribe to We the People and our companion podcast, Live at America’s Town Hall, on Apple PodcastsStitcher, or your favorite podcast app.

We the People is a member of Slate’s Panoply network. Check out the full roster of podcasts at

Sign up for our email newsletter