Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case against former President Donald Trump faces numerous hurdles, suggesting the pending charges against the 45th president and the leading GOP 2024 contender are unusually weak, legal experts said Friday.
John Malcolm, vice president of The Heritage Foundation’s Institute for Constitutional Government, cautioned that the indictment is under seal, so there could be surprise charges. Early reports suggest the former president will be indicted on fraud charges over $130,000 in hush money paid in 2016 to porn actress Stormy Daniels to cover up a 2006 sexual liaison. Mr. Trump has denied both the liaison and any wrongdoing in the case.
Mr. Malcolm noted that both the Federal Elections Committee and the Department of Justice previously reviewed allegations of campaign finance violations connected to the payments for Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and declined to prosecute.
“It is very unusual for a charge like that to be resurrected by a Manhattan district attorney or any other local district attorney,” Mr. Malcolm said. “I think it is going to be a tough case.”
Typically it is federal prosecutors who bring campaign finance violation cases, and a five-year statute of limitations would cut off any potential case. That would mean the charges should have been brought by 2021.
Andrew C. McCarthy, senior fellow at the National Review Institute, told Fox News that Mr. Bragg could try to base his case on New York state laws regarding falsifying business records to conceal illegal campaign donations, which he said is problematic legally “as far as proof is concerned.”
SEE ALSO: Trump says New York judge assigned to his case is biased against him
“Alvin Bragg does not have jurisdiction to enforce the federal campaign finance laws,” Mr. McCarthy said. “I don’t think what Trump did here — no matter what you think of it — actually constitutes a violation of the campaign finance laws. But even if I am wrong about that, the other problem that Bragg has is he would have to prove that Trump knew he had committed a campaign finance violation and that he falsified his business records knowing that. I don’t see how he gets there.”
Mr. Malcolm also said the former president could point to other factors for making the payments, such as to keep other business deals from being scuttled.
“This is not going to be an easy prosecution. This is certainly not a slam-dunk case, and you would think if you were going to indict a former president you would want to have a slam-dunk case,” he said.
Trump attorney Joe Tacopina said that he would not take a plea deal and that the transactions between Ms. Daniels and Mr. Trump were a private matter un related to the presidential campaign.
He said his client will surrender to the charges in New York on Tuesday, when the indictment likely will be unsealed.
“This was a personal resolution for a personal matter that would’ve been made irrespective of the campaign, so with those facts together, there is no crime,” Mr. Tacopina told NBC’s “Today” show.
• Alex Swoyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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