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The Horrendous Trump Verdict

Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg
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By: The Editors – nationalreview.com

Well, Alvin Bragg got his man.

In a case that will eventually be remembered as a textbook instance of selective prosecution, the Manhattan district attorney breathed life into an alleged bookkeeping misdemeanor that the statute of limitations had expired on and, Merlin-like, transformed it into 34 felonies.

In his press conference after the jury returned the guilty verdict Thursday afternoon, Bragg said his office did its work without “fear or favor,” an Orwellian portrayal of a prosecution that never would have been undertaken against anyone not named Donald Trump, or if Trump weren’t running for president again.

Bragg relied on an embarrassingly compliant Judge Juan Merchan, and a Manhattan jury that took its cues from Merchan, to make up for the myriad legal deficiencies in his case.

The business-records charge requires not just that a record is false (Trump’s reimbursement to Michael Cohen was booked as an ongoing legal fee rather than a loan reimbursement) but that there is an intent to defraud. There isn’t any evidence that Trump sought to defraud anyone with a bookkeeping entry that no one would even see.

To transmogrify the alleged bookkeeping offense into a felony, it had to be in furtherance of another crime, which Bragg declined to include in his indictment and wasn’t explicit about for most of the trial, although his prosecutors said it was federal campaign-finance law in their closing  arguments. Still, since Merchan instructed the jurors to take a Chinese-menu approach to the second offense — they didn’t have to agree among themselves which of three possible criminal violations Trump committed — it’s impossible even now to know with certainty what Trump has been found guilty of.

The idea that it was a violation of federal campaign law is not credible. Paying porn stars for their silence is not a campaign expense. Moreover, Trump would have had to willfully violate the law, and there’s no evidence that he was even thinking of campaign-finance law.

All that said, Trump and his team did themselves no favors by denying the assignation with Stormy Daniels, when the evidence and common sense strongly suggest it happened, and by denying that he paid back Cohen, when Trump had previously acknowledged it in public. The prosecution successfully created the impression that this, on its own, was illegal conduct, and Trump’s dubious denials played into that impression.

The Trump legal team has plenty of grounds to appeal the case and may well ultimately succeed, although almost certainly not this year. The Democrats will make much of Trump’s new status as a convicted felon, and the case will continue to intrude on the campaign; Trump’s sentencing is set for a few days before the start of the Republican convention. It’s impossible to know with certainty how the verdict will play politically, but there is a strong chance that it will be a wash and soon enough overwhelmed by the larger issues in the campaign.

There’s no denying, though, that Alvin Bragg has made history — by becoming the first prosecutor in the history of the country to abuse his office in hopes of damaging an opposition presidential candidate ahead of a national election.

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Source: Trump Guilty Verdict: Alvin Bragg Makes History | National Review