The sudden turn of events that could derail Trump's indictment
"Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime," was the infamous boast of Joseph Stalin’s ruthless secret police chief, Lavrentiy Beria. His modus operandi was to target any man the Soviet dictator chose and then find or fabricate a crime against him.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has taken a page out of Stalin’s playbook and targeted Donald Trump. Driven by personal and political animus, the DA presumed the former president must be guilty of something. It was just a matter of devoting enough time and resources to hunt down the crime. Failing to find one, Bragg copied Beria’s paradigm and simply dreamed one up.
As I explained in my last column, the DA invented his case against Trump by taking an alleged misdemeanor business records violation and supercharging it into a felony by citing an imagined second crime arising out of a supposed campaign finance violation. The novelty of such a charge is exceeded only by its absurdity.
The indictment appears to hinge on the DA’s argument that a 2016 payment made to porn star, Stormy Daniels, was intended to help Trump’s presidential bid and should have been accounted for as a campaign contribution, not legal fees, when he reimbursed his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, who paid Daniels to keep her mouth shut about a purported 2006 affair that Trump vigorously denies. Confused yet? You should be.
The flaw in Bragg’s tortured logic is two-fold. First, non-disclosure agreements in exchange for money are perfectly legal. Second, Cohen long ago stated that the payment had nothing to do with the campaign but was made to protect Melania Trump from an embarrassing, albeit false, accusation. As such, it is not an illegal campaign donation under the law. Hence there is no crime.
It appears that Bragg’s star witness is none other than Cohen who has performed an astonishing pirouette by recanting his earlier statements. He now claims that the money was intended to help Trump’s campaign fend off a damaging story. Reliance on such a disreputable character as Cohen is a clear sign of the DA’s desperation. Cohen's hatred of Trump is well known. He has carved out a career of trashing his former boss.
Cohen has always had a warped relationship with the truth. He peddled so many lies that there is no way to know whether the disgraced and disbarred lawyer even understands the concept of honesty. Among the smorgasbord of crimes that sent him to prison was lying to congress.
In a sudden turn of events, Cohen’s former attorney Robert Costello —no longer bound by the attorney-client privilege that was waived by his ex-client— testified before the grand jury on Monday. According to Costello, in April of 2018 Cohen repeatedly stated that the Daniels payment was intended to protect the candidate’s wife, not the campaign. Moreover, Cohen insisted that he acted all on his own and not at the behest of Trump. While testifying for over two hours, Costello said he realized that Bragg had been hiding from the grand jury nearly all of the files he had previously turned over to the DA that corroborated Cohen’s original story.
Concealing exculpatory evidence from a grand jury is reprehensible conduct. But the overarching question is this: was Cohen lying at the outset of the investigation or is he lying now? I doubt even he knows. Inveterate liars tend to lose track of their lies.
Bragg’s determination to snooker a grand jury into indicting Trump is an egregious abuse of government authority. It constitutes the weaponization of the law for political gain. But it is also—and importantly—selective prosecution of the worst kind.
Consider the case of Hillary Clinton who secretly funded the anti-Trump dossier in 2016 by deploying campaign lawyers to pay ex-British spy Christopher Steele more than $1 million dollars to compose his phony document. Candidate Clinton listed it as a "legal expense," even though its sole purpose was to advance her campaign against Trump, her opponent. The Federal Election Commission fined Hillary for brazenly violating campaign finance laws.
But New York prosecutors never even thought about bringing criminal charges because it involved, well… Hillary. She has consistently been the beneficiary of a dual system of justice that grants her a permanent "get out of jail free" card for whatever crooked scheme she concocts. She was never prosecuted for obvious crimes under the Espionage Act by storing classified records in her home on a personal server. She also destroyed more than 30-thousand documents under congressional subpoena, but no obstruction of justice indictment was ever rendered.
Juxtapose the treatment of Donald Trump. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has devoted unlimited resources over many years scouring every aspect of the former president’s personal life and business affairs in a purely partisan quest to find a crime —any crime. They did it because they could, with no compunction over the code of ethics that binds lawyers. Despite the objections of senior experienced prosecutors, the district attorney conjured up a convoluted legal theory to slay his political hobgoblin. It has all the earmarks of a Stalin-like fabrication.
Much of the current witch hunt was driven and directed by former assistant DA Mark Pomerantz, an outsider who was hired for the sole purpose of "getting Trump." When Bragg initially balked at bringing charges, Pomerantz quit in a fit of pique but not before blasting his former boss in a resignation screed conveniently made public.
He then ratcheted up the pressure on Bragg by penning a disgraceful tell-all book. In it, Pomerantz arrogantly laid bare his contempt of Trump because "he posed a real danger to the country and to the ideals that mattered to me." That confessional exposed the underlying rationale for charging Trump. The district attorney soon caved and fully embraced the loony legal theory promoted by Pomerantz.
Disagreeing with someone’s political views or harboring personal animosity is not a basis for criminal prosecution. Indeed, it is a serious breach of legal ethics. It is the duty of a prosecutor to see that justice is done, not to target an individual and contort the law to bring a feckless case against him. Pomerantz should face disbarment for his unconscionable conduct.
The district attorney’s prejudicial pursuit of Trump undermines the vital concept that the administration of justice will be fair and equitable. He has forsaken the presumption of innocence embodied in the 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments to our Constitution. When it comes to Trump, the DA only operates on the presumption of guilt.
Alvin Bragg has chosen to criminalize politics with the zeal of the notorious Lavrentiy Beria. In the process, he has badly damaged the public’s trust and sullied the sacred principle of equal justice under the law.
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