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New York District Attorney Appears Determined to Indict Trump on Legally Feeble Charges

The besieged and dispirited citizens of New York City need saving from Bragg.

Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

It doesn’t seem to matter to Manhattan’s ultra-liberal District Attorney that his politically driven case against Donald Trump is the definition of flimsy and stale as month-old bread.  Alvin Bragg seems determined to hack off the mold and sell it as something fresh and new.

Forget about the statute of limitations that expired two years ago.  Or that his predecessor declined potential prosecution because the law does not support a criminal charge.  Or that the case is bereft of any credible evidence.  Never mind that Bragg’s legal theory is bizarre, if not comical.  Or that his star witness, Michael Cohen, is a confessed liar who went to prison and whose name is synonymous with sleaze and dishonesty.

In a sensible world, all of that should matter.  But it doesn’t because Trump is the Democrats’ eternal boogeyman.  Since he’s running again for president, he has to be stopped —by hook or by crook.  So, Bragg exhumed a seven-year-old corpse of a case and appears poised to snooker a grand jury into indicting the former president.  The end justifies any malevolent means.

The besieged and dispirited citizens of New York City need saving from Bragg.

Don’t be fooled by the theatrics.  Gaining an indictment from a grand jury is a cinch.  There are rarely any enforceable rules of evidence because the proceedings are secret and lopsided.  Double hearsay, unauthenticated documents, and all kinds of sketchy stuff that is otherwise inadmissible at trial can be introduced without objection.

No one from the defense is present to contest the purported evidence or to challenge the witnesses.  Jurors tend to accept as gospel the pablum prosecutors spoon-feed them.  It’s the equivalent of a turkey shoot.  And a charade.  Hence the old saying, “you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.”

In Bragg’s twisted book, Donald Trump should be treated like a hardcore criminal because so-called “hush money” was given to porn star, Stormy Daniels, in exchange for keeping her mouth shut in the run-up to the 2016 election.  Bear in mind, such agreements are legally permissible.  Silence that is conditional upon payment is not against the law.  Non-disclosure agreements with pecuniary benefits attached are a common method of maintaining confidentiality.  Even if it involves consensual sex, which Trump vigorously denies.

The DA’s only impediment is the law and how to circumvent its narrowly defined language to trump up a case against Trump.  That’s when Bragg was forced to get creative.  He devised a legally cockamamie plan to supercharge a misdemeanor into a felony by bootstrapping a supposed secondary crime to it.

Here’s how it works, at least in Bragg’s brain.  It is a mere misdemeanor under New York law to falsify business records.  But by claiming that the Stormy payment was somehow meant to violate arcane campaign reporting laws, viola!  A second crime that elevates it to a felony.

Bragg’s scrutiny of campaign laws must have been cursory.  In his zeal to nail Trump, he apparently skipped over the part about “dual purpose” contributions.  That is, if money paid serves a double or ancillary function then it is not a reportable campaign expense.  This has been Trump’s argument all along.  He did it primarily for personal and commercial reasons.
There are a few other pesky problems with Bragg’s strategy.  First, it would have to be shown that Trump himself was involved in falsifying records.  Second, Bragg would have to prove that Trump not only understood the complex and convoluted campaign laws that few people comprehend, but that he intended to violate them.  Third, which set of campaign laws applies?  There’s the rub.

It’s been reported that Bragg is considering citing New York’s campaign statutes as the “second crime.”  But wait, the presidential contest was a federal election.  So, that’s a stretch.  What about U.S. campaign laws?  Can someone be charged under state law for violating a federal law?  Doubtful, since prosecutors would be exceeding their jurisdictional authority.  The DA can only charge under state laws.  Surviving a motion to dismiss would be a major obstacle.  Insurmountable, really.

The tortured history of trying to criminalize the Stormy episode undermines Bragg’s rationale.  The Justice Department, as well as the Federal Elections Commission, long ago examined whether Trump violated election laws.  They summarily dropped the matter after concluding there was no viable case.  But Bragg won’t let a dead horse remain unbeaten.  He is resolved to resurrect a feckless and moribund case.

As the chief prosecutor in a city reeling from rampant crime, you would assume that Bragg is preoccupied with public safety instead of pursuing a politically motivated case.  Wrong assumption.  The lawlessness that plagues New York City doesn’t seem to interest him in the least.

Bragg is the kind of guy who cares more about helping criminals than innocent victims.  In his progressive manifesto issued the moment he assumed office, he announced his refusal to prosecute certain crimes.  For example, he told his staff lawyers to treat armed robbery as a misdemeanor.  Retail thefts should be ignored.  He refused to bring felony charges in several violent attacks.  The requirement of bail was tossed out the window.  Prison sentences were discouraged.  He handed criminals a roadmap to freedom.

Bragg is not just soft on crime, he’s soft in the head.

The inept district attorney is also oblivious to the destruction he has wrought.  He didn’t bat an eye when scores of prosecutors submitted their resignations in protest.  Within six months, 65 assistant DAs fled his office in search of saner pastures.

Is it any wonder that crime in New York City has spiraled out of control as recidivist thieves and thugs are allowed to roam free?  Major crimes have shot up 22 percent under the district attorney’s watch, including robberies and burglaries.  Gun violence on the streets is pervasive.

None of that matters because Donald Trump is the politician that Democrats love to hate.  Alvin Bragg has appointed himself the savior of the Republic that doesn’t need saving.

The besieged and dispirited citizens of New York City need saving from Bragg.