- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2023

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is said to be nearing a decision on whether to charge former President Donald Trump for alleged wrongdoing involving hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels.

If Mr. Bragg does pull the trigger on an indictment, the former president likely would be charged with falsifying business records.

The charge is a misdemeanor, but under New York state law could be upgraded to a felony in certain circumstances. A felony conviction would carry a prison sentence of up to four years.

In the waning days of the 2016 election, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen paid Ms. Daniels $130,000. As Mr. Cohen tells it, the payment was made at the direction of his boss because Ms. Daniels was about to go public about an affair she alleges they had in 2006.

Mr. Trump has denied the romantic liaison but reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the payments.

Although the payment made to Ms. Daniels is not a crime, it is possible a crime was committed when it was documented in the Trump Organization’s books.

Mark Pomerantz, a former prosecutor in Mr. Bragg’s office who worked on the case, alleges that Mr. Cohen submitted phony invoices referencing a retainer agreement with Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen then received a series of checks hand-signed by Mr. Trump while he was president, according to a book authored by Mr. Pomerantz.

If there was no retainer agreement, it’s possible the invoices were forged and documented as “legal expenses” to cover up the hush payments. If true, that could potentially run afoul of New York’s law against falsifying business records.

Typically, falsifying business records is a misdemeanor offense. Prosecutors can upgrade it to a felony if they allege the defendant falsified the records to conceal a second crime. It is unclear if Mr. Bragg’s team intends to argue there was another crime.

A possible second crime theorized by legal analysts is that Mr. Trump falsified records to cover up alleged campaign finance violations. Others have dismissed that as a stretch.

To prove that Mr. Trump falsified business records, prosecutors would need evidence that Mr. Trump knowingly made false entries in his company’s records “with intent to defraud” or ordered someone else to do it.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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