Alvin Bragg's case against Trump is a joke, and it will polarize the country even more.
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It’s not an exaggeration to say that Alvin Bragg’s indictment of Donald Trump is banana republic bullshit. Although the indictment is still sealed,1 every indication is that the case is extremely weak, particularly given that this is the unprecedented prosecution of a former president and it’s based on what NPR and the New York Times charitably describe as a “novel” legal theory.
I’m not going to get into the legalese of the case, but the Times, like other mainstream media outlets that apparently have excellent sources in Bragg’s office, reports that the Trump indictment centers on the payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels—specifically, the manner in which the payment was accounted for, which Bragg alleges constituted a falsification of business records.
Though dishonest, this is, at most, a misdemeanor. The notion of going after a former president on such a trifling charge — we’re talking merely about how an expense was described in the accounting ledgers, not about tax evasion, and this normally ticky-tack misdemeanor is subject to a two-year statute of limitations — is so ridiculous that any prosecutor with a shred of self-respect wouldn’t do it.
That’s why Bragg has bootstrapped the alleged misdemeanor into a felony with a five-year statute of limitations, one which he can manipulate to perhaps apply to Trump. Under New York law, the false bookkeeping could be a felony if it was in service of another crime, and Bragg apparently will argue this constitutes a campaign-finance violation. Yet it’s not clear that the payment was a campaign-finance violation at all. Trump can plausibly argue that he wished to avoid personal embarrassment.
There are a number of other glaring problems here, like the fact that the campaign-finance offense would be a violation of federal and not state law, and such a crime has never been prosecuted in New York. The Manhattan district attorney has no jurisdiction to enforce federal campaign-finance statutes, and the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission — the federal agencies that do have jurisdiction in this area — looked at the Stormy Daniels hush-money arrangement and opted not to proceed against Trump. Then there’s the question of whether the statute of limitations has expired on these supposed offenses, and of the credibility of two of the star witnesses—fraudster Michael Cohen and a porn star, among other issues.
There’s a reason that this case was passed on by federal prosecutors. It’s the same reason that Bragg’s predecessor deemed it not worth pursuing,2 and why the investigation went on for nearly five years despite TDS-deranged prosecutors who’ve been dying to charge Trump with something, cooperating witnesses, and countless pages of materials from the Trump Organization. There is no case.
Do not be fooled by this. It is 100% political.3 Bragg literally ran his campaign on a promise to prosecute Trump. So now this pro-criminal Manhattan DA, who downgraded half of all felony charges to misdemeanors last year as part of what he calls “criminal justice reform,” is indicting a former president by straining misdemeanor charges into felonies, stretching the law in novel ways for the sole purpose of finding a reason to indict a political adversary.
The truth is that any ordinary individual would never be prosecuted for this. Nor would any ordinary politician for that matter.4 It’s happening because the Left can’t stand Trump, who’s leading in the polls. The fact that Bragg has had to stich together a Frankenstein legal theory based on some convoluted state-level interpolation of a federal campaign finance charge just to get the case past a judge makes it more than obvious. You don’t put this much effort into indicting Joe Schmo.
It pains me that so many people have celebrated this sham indictment, as it clearly indicates a lack of serious forethought about the potential consequences, immediate and long-term, of having any administration prosecute its predecessor and chief political rival. These folks should pump their brakes. There are always comparative lessons to be learned by looking back on other times and places in which similar dynamics to the present have been at work.
I think I may have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Writing in the third book of The Peloponnesian War some 2,400 years ago, the ancient Greek historian Thucydides warned that it’s dangerous for the rulers of a democracy to prosecute a political opponent. Specifically, taking revenge in a show trial intensifies polarization, increases sympathy for the prosecuted among his own supporters, and opens the door to not just bitterness but outright violence. Thucydides discusses the outbreak of civil war on Corcyra (modern Corfu) as an example, but the takeaway is rather simple: It’s a terrible idea.
I fear for what the indictment of Trump will do to the country.
A public trial, presentation of evidence before a jury,5 a conviction, and punishment—you think there won’t be a crisis of legitimacy? The idea is absurd. I imagine every single Trump supporter and anyone who’s honest with themselves knows that our public institutions have zero credibility after Russiagate (to say nothing of the pandemic), which was quite literally Clinton oppo research laundered through corporate media and the security state as propaganda to deceive the American public and undermine a sitting president—who just so happens to be the individual on trial. The Left has spent the better part of a decade trying to convict Trump for something. Russiagate will go down as one of the most disgraceful periods in America history; what’s needed to bring things into greater relief is the distance that only time can give.
And now we’ll essentially be putting the rule of law on trial, as the line between law and politics runs from porous to nonexistent. The double standards, hypocrisy (Hillary Clinton? Hunter Biden?) and partisan animus will undermine what little remaining faith the public might still have in America’s institutions.
The courts are bulwarks of our Constitution and laws, and they depend on the public to respect their judgments and on officials to obey and enforce their decision. A conviction, even if secured, will be deemed illegitimate by a substantial portion of the population. And if the American people become convinced that the justice system is a rigged partisan game in which the Left’s hegemonic control of our major institutions allows Democrats to weaponize the law against their enemies — something that’s becoming increasingly obvious — then the rule of law is dead.
If acquitted, Trump will still enjoy the benefits conferred by “martyrdom,” and will doubtless be emboldened and empowered after surviving a Democratic vendetta. Indeed, it’s very possible that there’s a deeper political play going on here, and that Democrats want the prosecution of the former president to propel him to the Republican nomination because they believe he’s the only candidate that Biden can beat. “Attention is the helium that lifts Trump above the competition,” as Martin Gurri put it.
And make no mistake about it: People will rally to Trump; they will vote for the man because they identify with his persecution. Populist leaders thrive on this sort of identification with their supporters.6 The notion that the GOP must now renominate Trump to the presidency if only to remedy this injustice will become a common refrain.
Regardless, this affair will subject our society to further comminution, heightening emotions, eroding our capacity to self-govern, and diminishing the public’s faith in the system’s capacity to mete out fair and impartial justice. So much of left-wing politics is reflective of a contemptible desire for psychological satisfaction, and I believe we’re seeing that on full display in a potentially historic blunder with disastrous consequences, including runaway cycles of vengeance in the form of tit-for-tat political prosecutions.
The Left is in jubilation. But the country will reap the whirlwind.
Someone leaked the news of the indictment to the media. That in itself is a crime under New York law. In fact, a much bigger crime than those under which Trump is being charged.
Alvin Bragg himself quashed this case in January 2022, reportedly because he didn’t think it was strong enough, only to start reviving it last November—probably because his TDS-afflicted donors had a conniption fit.
National Review’s Dan McLaughlin points out that the failure of the John Edwards prosecution, over his cover-up of a much more sordid scandal, serves as an instructive comparison highlighting why these sorts of cases aren’t usually brought anymore.
And Trump is in trouble: he’ll be facing a jury of Biden voters, who will be friendly to the prosecution. Biden won Manhattan 76% to 23%.