FEATURED PHOTO: ALVIN BRAGG NEW YORK COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
IndianExpress.com, Posted April 4th 2023
Trump’s case pertains to a 2016 incident, which ties to an alleged affair with pornstar Stormy Daniels from a decade prior. Here’s how under Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, it was pursued afresh.
Former US President Donald Trump has become the first former US president to face criminal charges, after being charged by Manhattan District Attorney (DA) Alvin Bragg’s office on Thursday (March 31).
The charges relate to a 2016 case, when Trump had his then-lawyer David Cohen pay $130,000 in hush money to keep porn star Stormy Daniels quiet about her and Trump’s alleged affair in 2006. Daniels claimed she slept with Trump, who at the time headlined the popular US reality show ‘The Apprentince’, after he said he could put her on his show – a charge he denies.
Just a few weeks ago, Trump urged his followers to protest against his possible arrest over what he terms a “witch hunt”. At the moment, the exact nature of the charges and Trump’s future arrest are unclear as the indictment is under sealed cover.
Given the case pertains to a 2016 incident, which ties to an affair from a decade prior, it became known as a “zombie case” in the DA’s office, the AP reported. Here’s how under Bragg, it was pursued afresh.
Who is Alvin Bragg?
Bragg, 49, is a former federal prosecutor who was raised in New York and attended Harvard University. District Attorneys – who are to respond from the government’s side in legal cases – are sometimes elected to office based on local elections in the US. Bragg is from the Democratic Party. As stated on his Twitter profile, Bragg’s platform has been about “Delivering one standard of justice for all.”
With his election in 2022 that he won by a significant margin against the Republican candidate, Bragg made his priorities clear. “The Day 1 job is guns,” he said, pointing to mass shootings in the country and gun-related crimes in New York, particularly.
He has also often invoked his own experiences as a Black man living in New York to discuss sensitive issues of policing and the treatment of Black people by police forces, according to a report in The New York Times. He listed experiences that would shape his approach: “Having been stopped by the police,” Bragg said. “Having a homicide victim on my doorstep. Having had a loved one return from incarceration and live with me.”
Also on his agenda are related issues of penalties for low-level crimes, some of which often see people going to prison for long periods of time. Bragg has termed these as being “unnecessary incarceration”.
A profile in The New York Times from 2021 noted that despite the aims of reforming the system, critics have seen a divergence in his actions at times. In the past, a unit he led to investigate police killings of unarmed civilians looked at 24 investigations but could not see any prosecution take place.
How Donald Trump was charged and how Bragg pursued the case
It is believed that charges against Trump could relate to falsifying of records because while Cohen paid Daniels off with his own money, he was then reimbursed by Trump and he recorded this payment as “legal fees”. This could point to a violation of law, possibly having to do with election spending as it occured right before the 2016 US Presidential elections.
The New York Times reported that to understand whether Trump did so, from 2019 onwards the then DA began making inquiries into The Trump Organization, seeking details about his tax returns and other financial information. The company sued the office in turn, claiming a sitting president could not be criminally investigated, but they did not win the case. The investigation then continued.
In 2022, Bragg took over as the DA. Initially, he expressed scepticism about the case but in August it was known that the investigation would proceed. Trump Organization’s Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg agreed to testify against the company he had long been associated with, but not against Trump himself. In a later trial last year, a jury held the company guilty of tax fraud and other crimes.
Bragg also hired white-collar prosecutor Matthew Colangelo to oversee the probe. Trump’s former lawyer Cohen became a key witness. Trump, for his part, called the investigation “the greatest witch hunt in history.” He has also lashed out at Bragg, calling him racist against white people.