‘Open Season On Any Politician’: Trump Indictment ‘Lowers The Bar’ For Other Prosecutions, Experts Say
- Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has indicted former President Donald Trump for allegedly falsifying business records, with other investigations against him still underway.
- The indictment lowers the standard for other prosecutors to bring charges, according to experts who spoke to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- “Alvin Bragg’s indictment of former President Donald Trump sends a clear signal to all of those independent prosecutors that it is open season on any politician, just as long as your political party and voters don’t like that politician,” Manhattan Institute Adjunct Fellow Thomas Hogan said.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s indictment of former President Donald Trump reduces the standard for other potential prosecutions, including of Trump himself, legal experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The indictment accuses Trump of falsifying business records “with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof,” related to allegations that he reimbursed his former lawyer Michael Cohen for hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels, over an alleged affair she had with Trump. A variety of legal analysts have argued Bragg’s case is built on shaky ground, and experts who spoke to the DCNF suggested the indictment effectively makes it easier for other prosecutors to launch indictments themselves.
“Although no one can presume to read minds, Donald Trump’s indictment by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg on rather underwhelming charges of falsifying financial documents certainly lowers the bar for prosecutors considering other, potentially more substantial charges,” the Cato Institute’s senior vice president for legal studies Clark Neily told the DCNF. “The odds are good that by this summer Trump will be facing criminal prosecutions in multiple jurisdictions.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows have been subpoenaed to testify in the DOJ investigation into January 6 overseen by Special Counsel Jack Smith, and other former Trump administration officials could be forced to testify as well, according to CNN. Smith is also overseeing the DOJ probe into Trump’s handling of classified documents, which has been in progress since the FBI seized 11 sets of them from Mar-A-Lago in August.
In a Mar-A-Lago speech following his Tuesday arraignment, Trump attacked Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation into alleged efforts by him and his allies to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results, labelling it “politically motivated, Fox 5 Atlanta reported. Emily Kors, who served as foreperson of a special grand jury in case, said in February that its list of recommended indictments “potentially” included Trump.
Bragg’s indictment poses a more general risk beyond Trump himself, Manhattan Institute Adjunct Fellow Thomas Hogan said.
“There are over 2,000 chief prosecutors in the United States, Republicans and Democrats, large and small offices,” Hogan told the DCNF. “Alvin Bragg’s indictment of former President Donald Trump sends a clear signal to all of those independent prosecutors that it is open season on any politician, just as long as your political party and voters don’t like that politician. The best hope is that enough honorable and clear-thinking prosecutors remain in office to prevent the United States from devolving into the type of country where the criminal law becomes a political weapon.”
New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit in September against Trump and his three oldest children, the Trump Organization and two associates, accusing him and the organization of manipulating asset values to convince banks to grant more favorable loans, pay lower taxes, satisfy loan agreements and secure better insurance deals. A judge denied Trump’s request last month to delay that case’s trial, which has been set to begin in October, according to NBC News.
Famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz argued on Sky News Tuesday that the case against Trump over classified documents and those investigated by Willis and James were “very very weak,” but called Bragg’s case “the weakest of all.”
“There just was no crime,” Dershowitz said, “The alleged crime is that he paid hush money, which is legal, and he paid it for purposes of making sure the information didn’t get out, and then they accuse him of not putting it in a public record in his corporate forms. Nobody in history has ever, ever put hush money that is repaid into a corporate form.”
Trump pleaded not guilty to all 34 counts of Bragg’s indictment. Heritage Foundation Senior Legal Fellow Cully Stimson said it is “difficult to tell” whether the indictment will embolden other county prosecutors to consider charging Trump.
“Prosecutors, at the state and federal level, should only charge people with crimes when there is probable cause to believe an actual crime has been committed, and only when they have a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits– the standard that applies to all prosecutors,” Stimson said.
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