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Opinion | Alvin Bragg Hasn’t Proved His Case in the Trump Trial

  

Category:  Op/Ed

Via:  vic-eldred  •  3 weeks ago  •  47 comments

By:   WSJ Editorial Board

Opinion | Alvin Bragg Hasn’t Proved His Case in the Trump Trial
Closing arguments are expected next week, and the wording of the jury instructions could matter a great deal. Judge Merchan said Tuesday he was reserving decision on a request by the defense to tell jurors Mr. Trump must have acted “willfully” to be found guilty. Either way, the reality is that hush money isn’t illegal, disguising the bookkeeping is a misdemeanor that’s past its statute of limitations, and Mr. Bragg jury-rigged the felonies using an alleged second crime that doesn’t look like...

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



N
ew York prosecutors rested their hush-money case against Donald Trump this week, but after 20 days in court and a trial transcript of 4,000 pages, the missing piece is still missing. The question is whether Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg presented the evidence necessary for a conviction, and if we were in the jury room, we’d say no.

Ignore the drama of Stormy Daniels on the witness stand, recalling her alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump in 2006. Focus on the law. To get a guilty verdict on the 34 bookkeeping felonies, Mr. Bragg must prove both that Mr. Trump falsified business records, and also that he did it with intent to commit or conceal a second crime. Yet there was essentially no direct evidence that Mr. Trump conceived of this all as a scheme to break the law.

The only real witness to Mr. Trump’s state of mind was his former fixer, Michael Cohen. When Ms. Daniels threatened to go public in the days before the 2016 election, Mr. Cohen testified that Mr. Trump authorized him to buy her silence for $130,000. “He expressed to me: Just do it,” Mr. Cohen said. “Go meet up with Allen Weisselberg and figure this whole thing out.” Mr. Weisselberg was Mr. Trump’s longtime CFO.

Mr. Bragg’s main argument for the second crime is that because the Stormy payoff was primarily meant to influence the 2016 election, it was in effect an illegal donation to Mr. Trump’s campaign. This interpretation of the law is dubious, though put a pin in that for a moment. Did it cross Mr. Trump’s mind that the transaction might be criminal? A nondisclosure agreement on its own is perfectly legal.

David Pecker, the National Enquirer impresario, was worried. In 2016 he laid out $150,000, plus work in his magazines, to quiet another alleged Trump fling, a former Playboy model named Karen McDougal. Mr. Pecker had a deal with Mr. Cohen to get repaid, but he declined after talking to his general counsel. “I am not going forward with this agreement,” he testified telling Mr. Cohen. “Rip it up.”

Then Mr. Cohen, at least, was on notice of legal exposure? Well, no. Here’s his memory of what Mr. Pecker said. “The Karen McDougal front cover on Men’s Health magazine had sold more copies than they had not only anticipated, I think that they had ever—the way David expressed it to me, that they had ever sold,” Mr. Cohen recalled. “He felt that it was, even for the $150,000, it was an excellent business deal.”

Trying to fill gaps, the DA’s team argued the jury should see an interview Mr. Trump gave Larry King in 1999. “Nobody knows more about campaign finance than I do,” he said, with typical puffery. The prosecutor: “We think that defendant’s admission that he has extensive knowledge of campaign finance laws is obviously directly relevant.”

Seriously? A transparent boast on TV in 1999 is proof Mr. Trump intended to facilitate an illegal campaign donation in 2016? Judge Juan Merchan sided with the defense on this, excluding it as “attenuated” and “speculation.”

When Mr. Trump repaid Mr. Cohen in 2017, the money was structured as income and then “grossed up” to cover taxes. That was Mr. Weisselberg’s idea, Mr. Cohen said, and he wasn’t informed why: “To be honest, I didn’t really even think about it. I just wanted to get my money back.” Mr. Weisselberg, who’s currently in jail, didn’t testify. Prosecutors said they were reluctant to call him, since he might take the Fifth Amendment, and his big-money severance package has a non-disparagement clause.

Then there’s the fateful legal question, which is whether paying hush money even counts as a campaign expense. Brad Smith, formerly of the Federal Election Commission, persuasively argues no. A political candidate might choose, for example, to settle a meritless lawsuit against his business rather than face questions on it from voters. But that motivation wouldn’t convert the settlement into campaign activity.

Mr. Smith was ready to take the stand this week, but the defense decided not to call him, given limits that Judge Merchan placed on his testimony. “It’s elementary that the judge instructs the jury on the law, so I understand his reluctance,” Mr. Smith wrote. Yet if Mr. Trump is convicted, the odds seem reasonable that an appellate court might say paying off Stormy wasn’t illegal in the first place.

Closing arguments are expected next week, and the wording of the jury instructions could matter a great deal. Judge Merchan said Tuesday he was reserving decision on a request by the defense to tell jurors Mr. Trump must have acted “willfully” to be found guilty. Either way, the reality is that hush money isn’t illegal, disguising the bookkeeping is a misdemeanor that’s past its statute of limitations, and Mr. Bragg jury-rigged the felonies using an alleged second crime that doesn’t look like a crime.

Conviction or no by a Manhattan jury, this is a case that should never have been brought.


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Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1  seeder  Vic Eldred    3 weeks ago

A sad tale of an ideologically driven prosecutor who brought a very weak, politicized prosecution before a partisan judge and jury against the main opponent of the democrat party. The case is beyond obtuse. We never learned what so called crime lifted an expired misdemeanor into 34 felonies. Somehow the crime had something to do with federal election law which is solely in the hands of the DOJ and not a state prosecutor.

There was once polling that showed some Republicans wouldn't vote for Trump if he were convicted, but with all the politics involved in this sham trial, I think that ship has sailed.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
1.1  CB  replied to  Vic Eldred @1    3 weeks ago

CONGRATULATIONS! That comment could not get more partisan if its author worked for days on it. Great partisanship! It's stuffed to the 'gills.' Donald will be proud.

 
 
 
Ronin2
Professor Quiet
1.1.1  Ronin2  replied to  CB @1.1    3 weeks ago

Like Democrats/Leftists aren't partisan in this matter.

They convicted Trump before the trial even started.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
1.1.2  CB  replied to  Ronin2 @1.1.1    3 weeks ago

Well if Trump is convicted, there is no need for summation next week. Therefore, you are telling an untruth. Be honest.

As for what 'leftist' say or write. . .it's freedom of speech. Because if it crossed any line around NT it would be checked and removed. Therefore, whatever you read here is fine-okay-permissible. 

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.2  devangelical  replied to  Vic Eldred @1    3 weeks ago
We never learned what so called crime lifted an expired misdemeanor into 34 felonies

especially from the media sources and pundits available to sycophantic maga morons ...

 
 
 
Ronin2
Professor Quiet
1.2.1  Ronin2  replied to  devangelical @1.2    3 weeks ago

Unlike leftist media sources that think Bragg is a genius, the judge isn't biased in the slightest (ignore the fact he is a Biden donor; and his daughter's company is making money off the case), and the Brandon administration/DOJ has nothing to do with the charges or the case- even though the 3 ranking member of the DOJ quit so he could join the prosecution.

Nothing to see here. Just another day in the Democrat two tier justice system.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
1.3  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Vic Eldred @1    3 weeks ago

Although I appeared in only two criminal trials as counsel I don't think I could possibly provide an opinion as to whether a crime was proven beyond a reasonable doubt to have been committed unless I had been a juror in that trial - and anyone else who renders an opinion is just guessing.

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1.3.1  seeder  Vic Eldred  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1.3    2 weeks ago

Have you ever been in a trial where the judge tells the jury they can determine whatever the crime was?

Most recently, Judge Merchan’s decision on what instructions to give the jury, which could determine the verdict, require a unanimous finding that Mr. Trump falsified business records to commit or conceal another crime. But jurors don’t have to agree on what that other crime was.

Legal experts tell how Judge Juan Merchan has helped New York prosecutors in Donald Trump's trial - Washington Times

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
1.3.2  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Vic Eldred @1.3.1    2 weeks ago

Well, as I just said I was counsel in only two criminal trials and I have watched a few, all with judge alone, although I have seen jury trials in the movies, and no, I have never seen a judge say that but in the context of this particular trial that appears quite correct to me. 

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
1.3.3  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Vic Eldred @1.3.1    2 weeks ago

But Vic, what does all this matter?  The SuTrump Court of America will absolve him of all sin and the polls show that the American people would have preferred Al Capone to be their POTUS anyway.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Principal
1.3.4  Sean Treacy  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1.3.3    2 weeks ago
he SuTrump Court of America will absolve him of all sin

Extremist Democrats push talking points like this story to generate ignorant  partisan takes like this one  that are designed to undermine the credibility of the Court. The same people said Trump Judges would throw him the election. Whoops!  That they would shield him with executive privilege claims. Whoops!    

But of course, if a  ruling ever favors Trump, it's a crooked  "Trump Court"

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
1.3.5  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Sean Treacy @1.3.4    2 weeks ago

Thank you for YOUR biased opinion.

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
1.4  cjcold  replied to  Vic Eldred @1    2 weeks ago
A sad tale

A sad tale of a lifelong criminal and a cult leader who should have been put in prison decades ago for his many, many, many crimes.

Anybody who thinks that Trump should be president is insane.

 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Participates
2  Greg Jones    3 weeks ago

Even if Trump is found guilty, I doubt that it will change many votes, since anyone with half a brain can see this is a weak politically driven case

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
2.1  CB  replied to  Greg Jones @2    3 weeks ago

How far those who want to be the moral 'compass' for our country have fallen. Now that the GOP's veneer has been allowed to peel itself away and is continuing to go farther. . . it's highly probable the GOP is done with its façade from now on. So we can get to the business of calling the GOP what it is become. Some Delusional Americans in possession of high-powered weapons with which they think they can threaten others in our nation. 

Even if Trump is found guilty. . . "anyone" with a whole brain should not vote for a 'condemned' former president who wants our permission to continue being the biggest JERK-Criminal leader to bring this country under scrutiny for its current malpractice of democratic principles.

 
 
 
Ronin2
Professor Quiet
2.1.1  Ronin2  replied to  CB @2.1    3 weeks ago

Vote for Brandon.

He has done everything Trump has done; but just hasn't been charged thanks to Garland being the most partisan POS AG ever.

Anyone with half a functioning brain shouldn't vote for Brandon or any Democrat after what they have done to this country for the last 8 years and counting. All they can run on is Trump. They can't run their record of inflation, open borders and rampant immigration, crime, and US taxpayer money going overseas at a record rate.  

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
2.1.2  CB  replied to  Ronin2 @2.1.1    3 weeks ago

Democrats could not run on Donald either if he kept his businesses and presidency clean. But, courts can't turn a blind-eye (as easy as MAGAs) and gloss over cases being put on their  dockets about Donald's shady professional and administrative dealings. 

 
 
 
Ronin2
Professor Quiet
2.1.3  Ronin2  replied to  CB @2.1.2    3 weeks ago

Sorry, but made up charges don't count/.

Equal application of the law does. Let us know when Hillary, Bill, Obama, and Brandon are properly charged and in court and then we can talk.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
2.1.4  CB  replied to  Ronin2 @2.1.3    3 weeks ago

Meaningless and weak rhetoric. When you have something timely and substantial and can get a court to take the case . . .we can 'talk.' Otherwise, all I see is your partisan FLAG waving.

 
 
 
MrFrost
Professor Guide
2.1.5  MrFrost  replied to  Ronin2 @2.1.3    2 weeks ago
Sorry, but made up charges don't count/.

Which ones are made up?

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
2.1.6  cjcold  replied to  Ronin2 @2.1.3    2 weeks ago

Liberals tend to follow the law. conservatives don't

It's been that way for many decades now.

Seems pro Putin/Trump fascists have all been brainwashed.

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
2.1.7  cjcold  replied to  cjcold @2.1.6    2 weeks ago

Seems not a damn one of far-right wing fascists care for democracy.

Far-right wing fascism is all about preaching hate and fear.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Junior Expert
2.1.8  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  cjcold @2.1.6    2 weeks ago
Liberals tend to follow the law. conservatives don't It's been that way for many decades now.

What’s you’re source and numbers?

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
2.1.9  cjcold  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @2.1.8    2 weeks ago

[]

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Junior Expert
2.1.10  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  cjcold @2.1.9    2 weeks ago

How morbid, my mother died in 2011.

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
2.1.11  cjcold  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @2.1.10    2 weeks ago

[]

 
 
 
bugsy
Professor Participates
2.2  bugsy  replied to  Greg Jones @2    3 weeks ago

As I have opined regularly, the judge in this case will not dismiss the charges or give a direct verdict because it will dry up the money flow to his daughter, and to an indirect extent, to him.

He knows that if he gets a guilty verdict from the far left jury, then he has done the job he was directed to do. He also knows that the verdict will get reversed, but it doesn't matter because the guilty verdict is all that does.

Hilarious and obvious of his intent that he over ruled almost every defense objection but sustained almost all of the prosecution objections the other day.

No one with a brain cell is fooled by this POS.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
2.2.1  CB  replied to  bugsy @2.2    3 weeks ago

Totally self-absorbed comment ignoring any merits that don't smack of MAGA partisanship. Well, bugsy, 'nobody' here is impressed by the folly of 'one-sid-'itis' that allows for Donald to be the boy who always cries, "Wolf!" and have a flock of minions 'come' to his agency. 

Be fair and balanced if you want MAGAs to have any validity (here).

 
 
 
Ronin2
Professor Quiet
2.2.2  Ronin2  replied to  CB @2.2.1    3 weeks ago

Leftists haven't a clue what fair and balanced is.

Much the less a fair trail; or equal application of the law.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
2.2.3  CB  replied to  Ronin2 @2.2.2    3 weeks ago

What "leftists" do or do not do—it affects them. In this case, if you are going to act as 'jury' - then you obligate your 'side' to look at the facts of this case as presented to the public not to just write negative commentary and masquerade opinions as facts. Opinion, especially when mostly one-sided and heavily partisan, serves no one at the end of the day. Donald's case should 'rise or fall' on its merits. 

Looking around the court's landscape for someone else to blame; peeking into people's backgrounds just so as to exploit some past negative; it won't help this case - because Donald is under the 'spotlight' in this court. . . it is his trial, alone No one cares about 'chaos theories' or "damage control" carried out individuals and groups seeking to intimidate judges, family members of victims, and juries

Indeed, it is my opinion, that it will soon come out that surrogates of Donald have been secretly 'silencing' people with hidden parts of their past backgrounds. When/if that time comes,  Donald will get his just desserts for having the gall to blackmail others too.  

People are getting fed up with being put upon by MAGAs!! 

 
 
 
MrFrost
Professor Guide
2.2.4  MrFrost  replied to  Ronin2 @2.2.2    2 weeks ago
Leftists haven't a clue what fair and balanced is.

Let me guess, you think Judge Cannon is, "fair and balanced"? LMAO!! 

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
2.2.5  cjcold  replied to  bugsy @2.2    2 weeks ago

You do realize that Bugsy means insane don't you?

All of your posts here back that understanding up.

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
2.2.6  cjcold  replied to  CB @2.2.1    2 weeks ago
MAGAs to have any validity

Nothing, ever, will give MAGA any validity. 

Trump is the most compulsive liar ever. 

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
2.2.7  CB  replied to  cjcold @2.2.6    2 weeks ago

Friend Cjcold, we have to allow fair and balanced sharing of the truth its proper place in our discussions. We can always hope that MAGAs will turn against Donald. I don't hold out hope for Donald at all, nevertheless!

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
2.2.8  cjcold  replied to  CB @2.2.7    2 weeks ago

The problem being that Trump folk don't do reality.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Principal
3  Sean Treacy    3 weeks ago

Did it cross Mr. Trump’s mind that the transaction might be criminal? A nondisclosure agreement on its own is perfectly legal.

Putting aside all the shenanigans that had to take place to even bring this case before a jury, the prosecution whiffed on showing, that trump believed he was a committing a crime when he signed the checks, and the only witness who could do that cohen, is a serial liar, thief and had his own lawyer testify he was lying.

Even under its own made up theories, the prosecution failed to provide evidence of the  critical element of the mysterious “second crime.”

The case is a farce on every level.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
3.1  CB  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    3 weeks ago

Bias, partisan, bull. Donald could have testified that he was 'clueless,' of course it would be a lie (he is somewhere lying this very moment to be sure)-but maybe he could gain plausible deniability. Nope, he could not. 

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Principal
3.1.1  Sean Treacy  replied to  CB @3.1    3 weeks ago
Bias, partisan, bull.

 conclusions are easy.  Prove it.  

  What evidence is there Trump knew he was committing a crime (even playing choose your own crime like the DA is letting the jury do) ) when he signed the check? 

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
3.1.2  CB  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.1    3 weeks ago
  Prove it. 

Donald is in court. Let's see what the jury decides. It's THEIR case sooner than later.  MAGAs have a chance to have their leader being found innocent of the charges. . . equal to their leader being found guilty. We have no choice but to wait on the jury at this time. Big difference than just doggedly pulling for one side or the other.

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
3.1.3  cjcold  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.1    2 weeks ago
farce on every level.

So you don't know that Trump has been the worst liar ever?

That says lots about you Sean!

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
3.1.4  cjcold  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.1    2 weeks ago

[]

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
3.2  cjcold  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    2 weeks ago

Everything Trump has ever done has been criminal in nature.

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
3.3  cjcold  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    2 weeks ago

So Trump hired Cohen to lie which means his lies don't count against Trump?

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
3.3.1  cjcold  replied to  cjcold @3.3    2 weeks ago

Didn't Trump hire everybody to lie for him?

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
3.4  cjcold  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    2 weeks ago

Trump is a criminal on every level!

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
4  JBB    2 weeks ago

Closing arguments are scheduled for tomorrow and then the jury will decide whether Bragg's team made their case. Jury Watch Live on NewsTalkers will commence tomorrow afternoon. So, stay tuned...

original

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
4.1  CB  replied to  JBB @4    2 weeks ago

Brilliant colors! Got that 'cock' to a -T-. 

 
 

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