After private citizen Donald Trump was arrested and charged with 34 felony counts for “repeatedly and fraudulently falsif[ying] New York business records to conceal criminal conduct that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election, legal experts have been scouring Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s charging document and Statement of Facts to see just how strong his case is against the ex-president.
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, a professor of law and MSNBC/NBC News contributor, overnight explained Bragg’s case in her Substack newsletter, calling it a “simple and elegant series of charges, all wrapped in the election context.”
There’s a lot of information to digest, but for starters Vance highlights this portion of DA Bragg’s allegations against Trump:
“From August 2015 to December 2017, the Defendant orchestrated a scheme with others to influence the 2016 presidential election by identifying and purchasing negative information about him to suppress its publication and benefit the Defendant’s electoral prospects. In order to execute the unlawful scheme, the participants violated election laws and made and caused false entries in the business records of various entities in New York. The participants also took steps that mischaracterized, for tax purposes, the true nature of the payments made in furtherance of the scheme.”
You may have read the words “scheme with others” and asked yourself why, as Vance points out, Bragg did not file conspiracy charges against Donald Trump.
“No answers to that today,” she bluntly offers. “The statement of facts uses conspiracy language and seems to suggest there was a conspiracy between Pecker, Cohen, and Trump,” referring to David Pecker, the now-former CEO of American Media (AMI), which publishes the National Enquirer, and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.
“There are strategic reasons prosecutors like to use conspiracy charges, including the fact that they permit evidence to be introduced that can be difficult to get in otherwise—for instance, conversations among co-conspirators. But the Manhattan DA has had months to consider his case, and, presumably, he had good reasons for the charging decisions he made.”
Vance serves up some good news for the rule of law. Through these documents, Bragg, she says, makes clear there are “multiple paths to conviction,” meaning he has built a case that does not rest on an all-or-nothing judgment from the jury.
All the right-wing Trump supporters who have bought into his “Big Lie” that there is massive election fraud (there is not) should be thrilled that Bragg has brought this case.
“Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg offered two reasons his office had to bring the case,” Vance explains. “First, it was about protecting American elections.”
That should be reason enough to believe this is a just prosecution, not a “partisan witch hunt.”
“Trump supporters who had suggested the ‘catch and kill’ scheme was about protecting Melania Trump saw that defense blow apart” on Tuesday, Vance explains. The “catch and kill” scheme is what National Enquirer allegedly engaged in to help Trump: keep on the lookout for stories damaging to the presidential candidate, pay the “owner” of the story, say, someone alleging Trump slept with them, for the rights to the narrative, then never publish it..
But perhaps one of the most interesting facets Vance found is one that destroys right-wing claims about the payoffs – Bragg by the way points to three: Stormy Daniel, Karen McDougal, and (remember this?) a Trump Tower doorman who got a $30,000 hush money payoff after alleging Trump had fathered a child out of wedlock who is unknown to the public.
“Trump met with Pecker after the election and before the inauguration to thank him for his help with the election,” Vance writes. “They met again after the election and before the inauguration, where Trump ‘thanked the AMI CEO for handling the stories of the Doorman and Woman 1 [Karen McDougal], and invited the AMI CEO to the Inauguration.’ After Trump became President, he invited Pecker to a White House dinner in the summer of 2017 ‘to thank him for his help during the campaign.'”
“Pecker is cooperating,” she adds. “He was the final witness Bragg brought before the grand jury, and, presumably, we will hear this story in his own voice,” meaning, presumably, at trial.
“Here’s the chef’s kiss,” Vance proclaims. “They structured at least one of the deals so they wouldn’t have to pay out funds if Trump lost the election. It was never about protecting Melania.”
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