BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | After Donald Trump had pled not guilty and vamoosed from his hotly anticipated court arraignment Tuesday, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg held forth on the case, declaring of Trump’s violations, “We cannot normalize [this].”
The D.A.’s historic indictment charges the former U.S. president with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree — basically for allegedly concealing reimbursements made to a “Lawyer A” (Trump’s former counsel, Michael Cohen) for a $130,000 payment Cohen made to a “Woman 2” (porn star Stormy Daniels) to buy her silence about her alleged 2006 affair with Trump. The latter denies the affair occurred.
A shell company was allegedly set up as part of the scheme to conceal the reimbursements to Cohen for the Daniels payment — though Trump signed the checks.
A “statement of facts” that the D.A. also provided to the press refers to a “Woman 1” (Playboy model Karen McDougal), plus a “Doorman” (a Trump Tower doorman), the latter who was going to dish dirt on Trump. Both of these individuals were also silenced with hush-money payments, according to the D.A. However, the current case brought by Bragg specifically centers on the reimbursements to Cohen for the Daniels payment.
The doorman, who worked at Trump Tower, allegedly was trying to peddle a story about the 45th president fathering an illegitimate child, which ultimately proved to be false.
Bragg described all the schemes as “catch and kill,” meaning the three individuals were paid off to keep them from going public with their stories and affecting the 2016 election. In the case of both McDougal and the doorman, it was actually American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, not Trump, that made the respective $150,000 and $30,000 payments, according to the D.A.
AMI later, on the advice of its general counsel, allegedly refused Trump’s offer to reimburse the magazine company for the McDougal payment. Trump, though, did invite (“AMI CEO”) David Pecker, the head of AMI, to dinner at the White House to thank him for the suppression efforts, according to the D.A.
Pecker allegedly had met with Trump at Trump Tower in 2015, pledging he would act as the “eyes and ears” of his presidential campaign and try to keep negative stories about the candidate from being published.
Under the law, to raise the concealed reimbursements to Cohen to the level of a felony, another crime needed to have been committed. The D.A. offered a couple of examples at the press conference.
First, he said, the payments consituted a campaign expense exceeding the federal cap, so should have been itemized and reported.
Also, Trump violated New York State election law since, as Bragg put it, it’s “a crime to conspire to promote a candidacy by unlawful means.”
To a reporter asking why the D.A. previously had balked at charging Trump, only to bring the case now, Bragg said his office “had additional evidence that was not available…[months] prior.”
“I’ve been doing this for 24 years,” Bragg said. “I’m no stranger to rigorous, complex investigations. I bring cases when they’re ready.”
Manhattan’s top lawman characterized Trump’s offenses as the sort of New York City white-collar crime that his office typically prosecutes, and that the particular legal strategy in this case has been used for the likes of “tax violations” and “sex crimes.” Furthermore, that the Big Apple is a “business capital” makes this case “profound,” he said.
“We today uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone is equal before the law,” he stressed. “No amount of money, no amount of power changes that enduring American principle.”
Later in the evening, back at Mar-a-Lago, Trump lashed out at Bragg, President Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and New York State Attorney General Letitia James, among others.
“Virtually everyone who has looked at this case — including RINOs [Republicans in Name Only] and even hardcore Democrats — say there is no crime and that it should never have been brought…never should have been brought,” he said. “Even people who aren’t big fans [of me] have said it.”
He accused Bragg of being a “radical-left, George Soros-backed prosecutor…who campaigned on a promise of ‘I’m gonna get Trump.'”