Prosecutor Alvin Bragg is breaking new legal ground in the indictment against Trump
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s historic indictment against Donald Trump may be based on an unexamined legal theory that one legal scholar in one move challenges as “legally pathetic.”
The indictment, presented Thursday by a New York grand jury, remains classified pending his arrest, and the exact nature of the criminal complaint against Trump is unclear.
However, the charges reportedly stem from whether Trump falsified business records when he reimbursed his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen for hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign.
Charges by New York State for falsifying business records would be a misdemeanor unless committed to further or cover up another crime.
Bragg reportedly claims the second crime was violating the federal election law, of which Cohen pled guilty in 2018, and admitted the payment to Daniels was an unregistered donation to Trump’s presidential campaign.
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley (right) has criticized the reported basis of the Manhattan case against Trump as “legally pathetic.”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s historic indictment against Donald Trump could be based on untested legal theory and put prosecutors at risk as they seek a conviction
Essentially, that theory would rely on proving violations of federal electoral law by a then-candidate for federal office in state court, something experts believe has never been attempted in New York.
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley called the case’s basis “legally pathetic” – although he warned the indictment could contain surprises.
“The charges could come out with a crime none of us have heard of,” Turley said in an interview with Fox News after Bragg confirmed the charges.
“But for many months this bootstrapping theory has been circulating, this idea that you could revive a New York City misdemeanor that has expired and has a two-year statute of limitations by connecting it to a federal crime, in this case the federal election violation,” he added.
“And if that’s the basis of the charges, I find that quite outrageous.” I think it’s legally pathetic,” he added.
The case raises a variety of thorny legal issues that could potentially lead to a judge dismissing the charges or pose problems for prosecutors on appeal.
But attorney Kevin O’Brien, a former federal prosecutor and partner at Ford O’Brien Landy, told DailyMail.com that the case “is serious on several levels, even if it’s just a misdemeanor charge.”
O’Brien said “the indictments are solemn, public and will be voted on by a panel of his peers” and predicted that “while Trump will move to dismiss for various reasons, the motions are unlikely to succeed.”
At the heart of Bragg’s alleged case is the $130,000 Cohen paid Daniels during the 2016 campaign.
In federal court, Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and testified that Trump ordered him to pay Daniels and another woman to ensure their silence.
Federal prosecutors said Trump’s family real estate company reimbursed Cohen and misrecognized it as legal expenses, but never charged Trump with a crime.
Former President Donald Trump boards his plane for a trip to a campaign event in Waco, Texas on Saturday
A Manhattan grand jury has voted to indict former President Donald Trump over hush money paid on his behalf to porn star Stormy Daniels, pictured with him above
Cohen and Daniels have said the payment was to buy their silence about a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 when Trump was married to his current wife, Melania. Trump denies having an affair with Daniels and any wrongdoing.
Bragg launched his investigation after his predecessor, Cyrus Vance, twice investigated the payment and filed no charges, in part because winning a conviction would rely on untested legal strategies, according to a recent book by Mark Pomerantz, a former prosecutor at the office .
The case was dropped and revived so many times that it became known in the prosecution’s office as the “zombie case,” Pomerantz wrote.
“The bottom line for me was that the ‘zombie’ case was very strong,” Pomerantz wrote in the book People vs. Donald Trump. “But was it a crime under New York law?”
Because Trump was a candidate for federal office at the time of the alleged crime, it is legally uncertain whether intent to advance or cover up a federal crime could commute a state-level forgery charge to a felony, Pomerantz wrote.
“It’s an untested theory, but it’s not every day that a presidential candidate breaks a state law,” Jerry Goldfeder, an electoral law specialist at Stroock Law Firm, told Reuters when asked whether state law applies to a candidate for a federal office could apply.
After an outside law firm was hired to provide advice, Vance’s office decided not to press charges, Pomerantz wrote.
“These types of crimes don’t necessarily fit the law neatly,” Sarah Krissoff, a partner at Day Pitney and a former federal prosecutor, told Reuters before the charges were brought.
At the heart of Bragg’s alleged case is the $130,000 Michael Cohen admits he paid to Daniels during the 2016 campaign. Pictured: Cohen arrives to testify on March 15
Trump’s attorney Joe Tacopina (seen in 2021) said Thursday that the former president had committed no crime and vowed to “vigorously fight this political persecution in court.”
Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, said Thursday that the former president had committed no crime and vowed to “vigorously fight this political persecution in court.”
Tacopina has accused prosecutors of “distorting laws” to try to bring down the former president.
He described Trump as a blackmail victim who had to pay Daniels the money because he would be embarrassed by the allegations “regardless of the campaign.”
“He did this through personal means to prevent anything coming out – wrong but embarrassing for him, his family, his young son. That’s not a campaign finance violation, by no means,” Tacopina told ABC’s Good Morning America before the indictment.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11924699/DA-Alvin-Bragg-breaks-new-legal-ground-Trump-indictment.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Prosecutor Alvin Bragg is breaking new legal ground in the indictment against Trump