Other than former President Donald Trump, four Republicans have so far announced their candidacy for president. Democrats took note of Trump’s announcement in mid-November, 2022. Among them was Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who successfully indicted Trump for… aye, there’s the rub.
Bragg’s unsealed indictment showed Trump would be tried on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records. Before the indictment had been disclosed publically, Bragg strongly hinted that there may be a new charge, as yet undisclosed, that would tie the felony charges to a federal felony crime, thus vindicating his grand jury’s return of an indictment.
“Get-Trump” leftists in the country have been salivating at the prospect of an indictment for the entire length of the Trump presidency and beyond. Finally, they supposed, Bragg would be able to attach the 34 donkeys’ tails to a stout donkey, a federal crime. There is, as yet, no visible sign of a donkey. There is no mention in Bragg’s indictment of the federal crime that would bear the weight of his hefty 34 charges, “related, according to a CBS report, “ to a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels made by Trump's former attorney and ‘political fixer’ Michael Cohen in the days before the 2016 presidential election. Trump has denied a sexual encounter with Daniels. Bragg's office announced last week that a grand jury had indicted the former president.”
Trump was not cuffed in New York City, nor was a mugshot taken of him, nor was a gag order imposed – unless, at some future date in his rollicking presidential campaign, it could be determined by presiding Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan that some stray remark of Trump’s inflamed a hothead who then went on to disturb the peace.
What we appear to have here is a less than sound prosecution pickled in politics.
Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr., had worked on the Trump/Stormy Daniel investigation without bringing charges of a kind endorsed by Bragg’s grand jury, and Federal prosecutors had declined to prosecute Trump on federal charges.
When asked by CNN why Bragg had decided to bring a case Vance previously had declined to prosecute, Vance said, “I’m sure that District Attorney Bragg has new facts.” If so, they are well hidden in Bragg’s public disclosures.
“Some wondered why Bragg revived a case he had appeared to leave for dead just months ago,” Politico reported hours after Bragg’s indictment was publically released. “Others questioned the specifics — like how Bragg was able to elevate the ‘falsification of business records’ charges against Trump into felonies, a move that requires evidence that Trump attempted to conceal a second crime. Still others focused on the delay in bringing charges — six years after the core underlying conduct — and anticipated that Trump will seek to toss the case for exceeding the statute of limitations, despite the assessment of some legal experts that the case is not time-barred.”
Bragg’s case against Trump relies heavily upon grand jury testimony provided by Trump’s previous political-fixer lawyer Michael Cohen, a star witness who previously had lied to investigators and, following his imprisonment after pleading guilty to campaign finance charges and lying to Congress, among other crimes has “spoken openly about his vendetta against Trump since the two parted ways bitterly during Trump’s presidency,” according to the Washington Examiner.
The Light Brigade, the Bragg directed District Attorney’s Office, has bravely and – some would say, impetuously -- rushed in where others had feared to tread.
Sharp legal critics noted during the past “history making” week – the first time in U.S. history that a sitting or former U.S. president had been booked, fingerprinted and formally charged with a felony crime -- that grand Juries are largely prosecutorial instruments. Bragg’s case, they felt, was weak because the prosecution so obviously appeared to be, at bottom, a pre-campaign political stunt.
Utah Senator Mitt Romney, roughly treated by Trump in a Republican primary campaign, said following Trump’s indictment, “I believe President Trump’s character and conduct make him unfit for office. Even so, I believe the New York prosecutor has stretched to reach felony criminal charges in order to fit a political agenda. No one is above the law, not even former presidents, but everyone is entitled to equal treatment under law.”
While there is a “separation of powers” doctrine hardwired into the U.S. Constitution, there is no “wall of separation” here in the land of the free and the home of the brave preventing the politicization of the judiciary or the use of judicial means to bring low political opponents. Democrat politicians, frequently during the Trump administration, their critics charge, have used the judicial department as a “gotcha” avenging angel.
Don Pesci is a political columnist of long standing, about 40 years, who has written for various state newspapers, among them The Journal Inquirer, the Waterbury Republican American, the New London Day, the Litchfield County Times, the Torrington Register Citizen and other Register Citizen papers. He maintains a blog, among the oldest of its kind in Connecticut, which serves as a repository and archive, for his columns; there are approximately 3,000 entrees in Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State, virtually all of them political columns stretching back to 2004. He also appears once a week Wednesdays on 1080 WTIC Newstalk radio with Will Marotti.