Amid rumors of an imminent indictment of Donald Trump by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg over his alleged hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, some New York City attorneys who are no fans of Trump are voicing skepticism about Bragg's chances at winning a conviction, Rolling Stone reported.
“This case is a joke, frankly, and I’ve litigated against that office for 33 years,” said longtime New York criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, who represented the former Sinaloa Cartel leader know as El Chapo. “I don’t think that case is winnable.”
Bragg's case against Trump raises two questions: did the payment actually violate any laws, or was it just a business-as-usual attempt to prevent an embarrassing sexual affair from becoming public? Even if laws were broken, it's still questionable if the case is winnable.
Manhattan prosecutors contend that the payment to Daniels, through his then personal lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen, was illegal because Trump falsely recorded $130,000 in repayments to Cohen as legal fees for tax purposes -- an offense that is usually treated as a misdemeanor.
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"Speculation surrounding prosecutors’ legal theory is that the other alleged crime could be campaign finance-related, given that the payoff happened right before the election," writes Rolling Stone's Victoria Bekiempis. "This is where things get especially thorny: if prosecutors do go the campaign finance violation route, it’s not clear whether they’re going to claim Trump wanted to violate state or federal election law. And if it turns out there isn’t an applicable state campaign finance statute (which there might not be) then the question arises: Could state prosecutors invoke federal law in this type of situation, even though it’s not their jurisdiction?"
Another skeptic of Bragg's case is adjunct professor at Cornell Law School Randy Zelin, who is not a Trump supporter.
“I do not believe, based upon what we know, that the felony charge will stick,” said Zelin.
“What you need to do to elevate the misdemeanor falsification of business records to a felony simply is this—[show] that the act of falsifying the business records was done in furtherance of another felony, another crime, that’s it,” Zelin added.
“I think that the District Attorney’s office in New York County is running a great risk of diluting the strength of other potential cases brought by other prosecutors, because this is a weak case—legally, it is a weak case.”
“Practically, it is really more or less a victimless crime, unless you truly believe that the election was truly influenced by the fact that people didn’t know about the hush money payments,” Zelin told Rolling Stone. “And with all of the stuff that he has said, does anyone really believe that if it got out that he paid Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, that it would have changed the election? Probably not.”
Another longtime New York defense attorney with no love for Trump feels the same.
“I think that the basis for the felony, linking it to campaign finance declarations … It’s a strange way to get to an indictment, especially in a falsifying business records situation that’s often charged as a misdemeanor,” Peter Brill said. “On the one hand, the facts seem fairly damning, but the foundation that they’re built on is weaker than I would hope for in the first criminal indictment or criminal charge [against] Trump.”
Read the full report over at Rolling Stone.