Former President Donald Trump was indicted on 34 felony charges related to falsifying business records in a case brought against him by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, which relies heavily on legal complexities.
Legal experts, like former Assistant District Attorney Daniel Bibb, explained that “If it wasn’t Donald Trump,” prosecutors wouldn’t have proceeded with the case.
Other experts have described the charges, which Trump pleaded not guilty to, as more half-court heave than a slam dunk.
The indictment relies on a novel legal theory and the testimony of Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen, a disbarred attorney, and convicted liar.
Michael Cohen’s Credibility
One month before the 2016 elections, Cohen, an employee of the Trump Organization at the time, used a shell corporation to pay $130,000 to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress who claimed that Trump had an affair with her, for her silence.
Following Trump’s victory, Cohen was reimbursed $420,000.
The figure was disguised in Trump’s accounting as a phony retainer agreement and included taxes on the initial $130,000 payment and a $60,000 bonus.
Bragg argues the payment is an illegal campaign contribution since Trump didn’t disclose it, and it exceeded the amount allowed under federal law.
In 2018, Cohen was convicted on federal charges, including campaign finance violations, that included arranging hush-money payments to Daniels and Karen McDougall, a former Playboy model, who also claims she had an affair with Trump, both of which the former President denies.
Months after his conviction, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.
Following his time in prison, Cohen wrote a book scribing the former President as, among things, a “racist,” “mobster,” cheater,” and “con man.”
Unexplored Legal Theory
The second legal obstacle Bragg will need to overcome to secure a conviction is prove Trump committed a felony and not a misdemeanor.
To change Trump with a felony rather than a misdemeanor — the charge for falsifying business records — Bragg had to allege Trump intended to commit or conceal a second crime.
Bragg makes this allegation in the indictment without specifying what the second crime is, and when addressing it during a press conference, said he isn’t legally required to disclose the second crime.
Later, Bragg implied the second crime was state and federal tax and campaign finance laws.