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The Brief

The Brief: Bragg’s Flimsy Indictment of Trump Exposes a Corrupt Legal System

Gregg is joined by David Schoen, former counsel to President Trump and veteran civil liberties attorney.

There is no justice system anymore.  There is only a legal system.  And it’s corrupt.

For proof, look no further than the abusive and vindictive indictment of Donald Trump engineered by a politically biased district attorney in a brazen bid to interfere with the next presidential election by targeting his party’s leading opponent.

Alvin Bragg, a progressive Democrat, ran on the campaign pledge of prosecuting Trump.  He vowed to exploit the immense powers of his office to bring down the former president.  Never mind that candidate Bragg was not privy to any evidence or documents that Trump had ever violated the law.  Being bereft of facts did not deter him from publicly accusing Trump of felonious conduct and convicting him in the court of public opinion.

Upon assuming office, Bragg immediately launched an investigation in search of a crime.  Upon reviewing the law and facts, he summarily dropped it.  There was no case to be made.  But an intensive public pressure campaign led by his former assistant DA who quit in a fit of pique forced Bragg to reverse course.  The district attorney caved and soon adopted a ludicrous legal theory to fulfill his promise to voters and satisfy his party benefactors.

Before he was ever elected, Bragg prejudged the merits of a case he had yet to bring and promised an outcome that was preordained.  He perverted the legal system by misusing his prosecutorial authority to punish a political nemesis and advance his own career.  He obliterated any semblance of fairness and impartiality with a pernicious case driven by prejudice.  His malign behavior is an affront to justice because it is profoundly unethical.

Bragg should face disbarment for his egregious abuse of power.  Naturally, it won’t happen because the New York Bar Association is notoriously liberal.  Its governing members are secretly cheering on the district attorney.

Corruption in the legal system is embedded with deep roots.

The case against Trump was laughingly referred to in the Manhattan DA’s office as the “zombie case.”  It was repeatedly pronounced dead, only to be brought back to life.  Bragg initially killed it when he realized it was a farce.  But his hatred of Trump was so consuming that he resurrected it from the grave.  To make that happen, he contorted the law and twisted the facts to jam a square peg into a legal round hole.

Even some die-hard liberals and notable Democrats grudgingly concede that the charges against Trump are lame.  They grumble that the case is transparently political.  They openly fret that a failed prosecution may result in a public backlash with severe political consequences for their party.  But the real wreckage befalls the public’s perception that our legal system is no longer fair.  It is being weaponized to achieve a partisan purpose.

Former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr called the charges an abomination.  “It’s the epitome of the abuse of prosecutorial power to bring a case that would not be brought against anyone else.  They are going after the man, not a crime.  And the legal theory, frankly, is pathetically weak.  The case is held together by chicken wire, paper clips, and rubber band.  It’s a lousy case.  It’s a shameful episode in our history where this local prosecutor is trying to affect the political process by bringing this case.”

The case centers around non-disclosure agreements in exchange for money paid to two women who claimed affairs with Trump many years ago, which he denies.  Such contracts are perfectly lawful.  But Bragg claims candidate Trump somehow violated campaign finance laws by failing to account for them as election contributions.

As I have explained in a series of recent columns, Bragg is inventing a legal theory that does not exist in the law.  This is why the Department of Justice declined to pursue it, as well as the Federal Election Commission (FEC).  Both examined the matter and correctly concluded that the campaign law that Bragg now seeks to exploit and manipulate is not applicable.

In a recent column in The Wall Street Journal, the former chairman of the FEC, Bradley A. Smith, wrote, “The ‘crime’ that Mr. Bragg claims is being covered up isn’t a crime at all.  If he is somehow able to make these charges stick, it will betray fundamental tenets of campaign-finance law and those who believe in the rule of law.”

There were other obvious reasons for payments, both personal and commercial.  Preserving the name and reputation of Trump’s eponymous real estate and business empire is one of them.  As Smith points out, “an obligation isn’t a campaign expenditure if it exists ‘irrespective’ of the campaign.”  Even if his campaign also benefits, the dual purpose forecloses a violation of the law.

But Bragg’s burden of proof faces other roadblocks imposed by the law.  He would have to show that Trump was personally involved in falsifying records, which is a misdemeanor.  Then, he 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.

Reportedly, Bragg’s star witness is Trump’s ex-lawyer, the thoroughly disgraced and disbarred Michael Cohen.  He is an infamous liar who went to prison for lying to the IRS, lying to banks, and lying to congress.  Cohen is one of the most disreputable and sleazy people you will ever have the misfortune to meet.  His dishonesty is exceeded only by his unscrupulous zeal to destroy Trump.  If Bragg is foolish enough to put Cohen on the witness stand, he will be eviscerated on cross-examination.

The feebleness of Bragg’s case will inevitably be met with a flurry of motions by Trump’s legal team to dismiss the case by arguing that it is not supported by the law and that the alleged facts do not amount to any crimes.  The first motion will likely be a very legitimate challenge based on the statute of limitations that expired long ago.

The fact that Bragg is determined to pursue a “zombie case” underscores his contempt for the rule of law and the sacred cannons of professional ethics.  It is the primary duty of a prosecutor not to convict, but to see that justice is done.  He is duty-bound to be fair and impartial.  He must refrain from political and personal prejudice.  He may not be influenced by hostility or personal animus toward a defendant.

Bragg’s vitriolic rhetoric during his campaign for office and his promise to target Trump is exactly what ethical rules are intended to prevent.  Bragg has been chasing Trump, not crimes.  This is a flagrant violation of his due process rights that are designed to protect citizens from abusive prosecutions.

Is there any doubt that someone not named Trump would have been treated differently?

As I noted in an earlier column, Hillary Clinton secretly funded the phony anti-Trump dossier in 2016 by paying more than $1 million dollars.  She listed it as a “legal expense,” even though its sole purpose was to smear Trump and advance her own campaign against him.  The FEC fined Hillary for blatantly violating campaign finance laws.  Yet, neither Bragg nor his predecessor gave a fleeting thought to charging Clinton.  Of course not.  She’s a member of their same political party.  Professional courtesy.

Trump is the victim of selective prosecution and political persecution.  As district attorney wielding a big bat, Bragg has smashed the rule of law and reinforced the belief that there is no system of justice anymore.  Only a corrupted legal system.

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