For the first time in history, a former U.S. president has been indicted on criminal charges. This is the culmination of the open political targeting of former President Donald Trump by rogue prosecutor Alvin Bragg. As Cully Stimson and John Malcolm explained, Bragg's legal theory behind the charges is about as good as you'd expect from a prosecutor who's made a name for himself for failing at his job:
During a post-arraignment press conference, Bragg struggled to explain the theory behind the first prosecution of a former president of the United States, stating that Trump “was paying Michael Cohen for fictitious legal services to cover up an actual crime committed the prior year.”
Bragg also said that “true and accurate business records are important … all the more important in Manhattan, the financial center of the world.”
With respect to an alleged violation of federal campaign finance rules, the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission opened, thoroughly pursued, and then closed investigations against Trump without charging him. It is odd indeed, to say the least, for a local district attorney to shoehorn a federal violation—which was not brought much less perfected in a court of law—into a state crime.
The indictment of a former U.S. president is unprecedented, but in some ways follows the "Democrat playbook" of using any means necessary to take down political opponents. A Washington Times report broke down the strong parallels between the Trump indictment and charges brought against former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in the early 2000s:
Ronnie Earle, the district attorney in Travis County, Texas, got his first indictment against Mr. DeLay on a charge that wasn’t even against the law in 2002 when Mr. DeLay was supposed to have violated it. Mr. Earle then asked a second grand jury to indict, but it refused.
Mr. Earle kept that secret while he rushed to get a third grand jury, newly sworn in, to indict on money laundering and conspiracy charges stemming from how a political action committee managed its money in the 2002 election.
Mr. Earle eventually got his conviction, but an appeals court found that Mr. DeLay’s PAC did in fact try to comply with the law.
Elliot Berke, Mr. DeLay’s general counsel when he was majority leader, said the prosecution was “an absolute travesty of justice.”
“Earle knew that DeLay would have to step down as majority leader upon indictment,” Mr. Berke said. “Even though the case was thrown out on appeal, the damage to DeLay’s political career was done.”
Like Earle, Bragg had to impanel multiple grand juries before obtaining an indictment.
As far as the charges themselves, we can look to the hush money case against former Democrat Senator John Edwards for some insight. According to former FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith:
"The Edwards scenario is relevant for two reasons. First, as much as I criticize the theory of District Attorney Bragg, it's worth noting that the federal district court judge in the Edwards case let the case go to trial on basically what was that theory – that friends of the candidate were paying a woman off to be quiet that counted as a campaign expenditure," Smith told Fox News Digital in a phone interview. . .
"The other point about it is the jury found in favor of Edwards. They hung on some charges, and on others, they acquitted," he continued. "I think that illustrates the tremendous difficulty of winning this kind of case both on the law and the facts."
"I think that what it foreshadows is that Alvin Bragg is trying to make out that there was a violation of federal of campaign finance law, but when the Justice Department moved against John Edwards – and remember the claim was that big political donors of Edwards didn't give money to the campaign but gave money directly to his mistress that was somehow a violation of campaign finance law – and they failed," Spakovsky told Fox News Digital. "The jury didn't buy that."
"I think that shows that the one time the Justice Department tried to pursue a case like this, it failed," he continued.
Join RNLA today for a special webinar with Elliot Berke and Cully Stimson for more on the indictment of former President Donald Trump.
Do you have questions about the indictment of former President Donald Trump? Join RNLA for a special webinar this Thursday at 2 p.m. ET discussing this unprecedented event. https://t.co/pFJjUl4dmc— RNLA ⚖️ (@TheRepLawyer) April 4, 2023