Trump’s expected ‘arrest’: The politics and power games behind these legally weak charges
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With word from former President Donald Trump that he “will be arrested” on a criminal charge crafted by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for alleged silent money payments made during the 2016 campaign, he is essential to examine what motivated the accusations.
At its core, the case represents a blatant abuse of power and the corrupt weaponization of the law for political gain. Deprived of any credible evidence, Bragg skirts the law in a brazen attempt to inflate his case. His actions constitute gross misconduct on the part of prosecutors. It’s the culmination of a years-long effort by the district attorney’s office to target Trump for something — anything.
It doesn’t seem important to the progressive DA that his case against the former president is the definition of shaky and stale as month-old bread. Bragg is determined to cut the mold and sell it as something fresh and new.
Forget the statute of limitations that expired years ago. Or that his predecessor refused prosecution because the law does not support a criminal charge. Or that the feds investigating the case determined the evidence just wasn’t there. Never mind that Bragg’s legal theory is novel, if not bizarre. Or that his star witness, Michael Cohen, is an admitted liar who went to prison and whose name is synonymous with sordidness and dishonesty.
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In a sane world, all of that should matter. But that’s not the case, because Trump is the perennial Democrat boogeyman. Since he’s running for president again, he needs to be stopped – by hook or by crook.
So Bragg exhumed a seven-year-old corpse from a case and appears to have pushed a grand jury to indict the former president. The end justifies all malevolent means.
In Bragg’s twisted book, Donald Trump should be treated like a hard-core criminal because money was given to porn star, Stormy Daniels, in exchange for keeping quiet ahead of the 2016 election. Keep in mind that such agreements are legally permitted. Silence conditional on payment is not against the law. Non-disclosure agreements with pecuniary benefits are a common method of maintaining confidentiality. Even if it’s consensual sex, which Trump strenuously denies.
The DA’s only obstacle was the law and how to circumvent its narrowly defined language to build a case against Trump. It was then that Bragg was forced to get creative. He devised a legally cockamamie plan to turn a misdemeanor into a felony by starting a supposed secondary crime there.
Here’s how it works, at least in Bragg’s brain. It is a simple offense under New York law to falsify business records. But claiming that Stormy’s payout was somehow calculated to violate murky campaign reporting laws, viola! A second crime which elevates it to the rank of crime.
Bragg’s scrutiny of the campaign laws must have been superficial. In his zeal to nail Trump, he apparently skipped the part on “dual use” contributions. In other words, if the money donated serves a dual or ancillary function, it is not a reportable expense or campaign donation. No crime was therefore committed. This has always been Trump’s argument. He did this primarily for personal and business reasons.
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There are a few other pesky problems with Bragg’s strategy. First, it would have to be shown that Trump himself was involved in the falsification of records. Second, Bragg would have to prove that Trump not only understood the complex and convoluted campaign laws that few understand, but that he destined to violate them. Third, which set of campaign laws apply? That’s the catch.
It was reported that Bragg considered citing the New York campaign statutes as the “second crime”. But wait, the presidential contest was a federal election. In addition, state election laws are superseded by federal election laws. So that’s overkill. What about using those same federal laws as a second crime? Can someone be charged under state law for violating a federal law? Not likely. Prosecutors would exceed their jurisdictional authority. The DA can only bill under state law.
Obviously Bragg doesn’t care about the law. He’s banking on the likelihood that a liberal New York judge will let the case go before a Manhattan jury of biased Trump critics intent on ignoring all legal restraints and convicting the former president despite a lack of incriminating evidence. . However, I would not bet on a conviction upheld on appeal.
Also, don’t be fooled by the theatrics of an expected grand jury indictment. It was child’s play. There are rarely enforceable rules of evidence because the proceedings are secretive and unbalanced. Double hearsay, unauthenticated documents and all sorts of sketchy things that are otherwise inadmissible at trial can be introduced without objection.
No member of the defense is present to challenge the alleged evidence or to challenge the witnesses. Jurors tend to accept as gospel that pablum prosecutors spoon-feed them. It’s the equivalent of a turkey breast. And a masquerade. Hence the old adage, “You can have a grand jury indict a ham sandwich.”
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The tortured history of trying to criminalize the Stormy episode undermines Bragg’s entire justification. The Justice Department, as well as the Federal Election Commission, have long considered whether Trump violated election laws. They summarily dropped the case after concluding that there was no viable case. But Bragg won’t leave a dead horse undefeated. He is determined to resuscitate an irresponsible and moribund case.
As the chief prosecutor of a city reeling from rampant crime, you’d assume Bragg is concerned with public safety instead of pursuing a politically motivated case. Bad assumption. The lawlessness in New York does not seem to interest him in the least.
The great irony is that Bragg has spent most of his term downgrading felonies to misdemeanors. But now he wants to turn a misdemeanor into a felony because his target’s name is Trump. Its selective prosecutions are an affront to the principle of equality before the law.
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I suspect the district attorney’s real goal is to interfere in the upcoming presidential election by eliminating Trump. In a democracy, this important decision should be left to the voters, not a local prosecutor doing the bidding for his political party. Fortunately, most Americans are smart enough to see through the plating of a fake case.
Indeed, Bragg’s actions may well have the unintended consequence of rallying even more support for Donald Trump.
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