Why did the Trump-Stormy Daniels case suddenly go from Zero to 60?

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s invitation to former President Donald Trump to testify before a grand jury in the Stormy Daniels money case is a reversal from his previous reluctance to indict Trump for the prosecution of financial crimes that his predecessor Cyrus Vance had appeared green. – light But the sudden appearance of Bragg’s new prosecutorial libido may not bode well for the potential prosecution given the challenges he is likely to face.

As reported by The New York Times, Bragg’s invitation to Trump signals that an indictment may be imminent because potential defendants in New York have the right to answer questions before a grand jury before indictment. Reports that Trump’s former “enforcer” Michael Cohen will also testify before the grand jury show that the Bragg investigation is very active. But if Bragg is really that far in the pursuit, then the speed of the process is cause for concern.

Keep in mind that the potential financial crimes case against Trump that Bragg derailed had been worked on by his predecessor Vance for years. Vance began this investigation in 2018 and as part of it fought Trump’s efforts to block a subpoena of his tax records held by his accounting firm Mazars all the way to the Supreme Court — not once, but twice sometimes

When Bragg brought the case against Trump, the prosecutor who argued before the Supreme Court and won, Carey Dunne, resigned and another lead prosecutor on the case, Mark Pomerantz, who later wrote a book about to his dissatisfaction with how Bragg handled the case, too. resigned in protest. Bragg seemed unfazed by this extremely unusual situation and proceeded to quietly secure a toothless conviction against the Trump Organization alone. He also gave Trump’s Chief Financial Officer, Alan Weisselberg, a generous plea deal, whereby Bragg had no cooperation against Trump in exchange for Weisselberg’s light sentence.

In stark contrast to the exhaustive work done on the potential financial crimes case against Trump, the Stormy Daniels money case languished for about seven years before being revived by Bragg. This inaction was not Bragg’s fault. As laid out in a book by former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, the Trump DOJ repeatedly interfered with the investigation of potential federal campaign violations that could have arisen from the money paid to Daniels. Trump’s DOJ also told Vance’s office to drop any state charges. Seven years of inactivity damages any case—witnesses’ memories can be blurred and evidence can be lost—but the Daniels case poses other challenges as well.

For starters, the prosecution’s main witness, Michael Cohen, is a convicted felon who, like most cooperators, has a background that the defense can exploit. Cohen pleaded guilty and served time for lying on Trump’s behalf, so he will be subject to questioning about his credibility. The prosecution must be prepared carefully to fight against the defense attacks. The amount of that preparation increases in proportion to how much a witness has already said about the case. Cohen, of course, has made countless public statements about the case both under oath and under oath.

Another challenge is that the legal theory Bragg must pursue to win a felony conviction is new. The DA will have to prove that Trump’s falsification of business records was intended to cover up another crime, such as a violation of New York state election law. If Bragg can only prove the forgery, so can Trump he can only be convicted of a misdemeanor.

Then there are the likely legal challenges that Trump’s legal team could bring, including arguments that federal law on campaign finance violations preempts any state charges and arguments that Trump’s status as a former president means that the case must be tried in federal court. While these arguments may or may not succeed—and in my view they won’t—they are still complex new legal issues that Bragg’s prosecutors will have to contend with.

None of these are insurmountable challenges. New legal arguments are not necessarily difficult for a jury to understand. Cooperators with baggage are used by prosecutors to secure convictions every day in cases, and the Manhattan district attorney’s office is more than capable of fending off Trump’s legal attacks. Most importantly, unlike the sprawling facts of the January 6 investigation, the Stormy Daniels case is a simple story to tell that involves relatively few witnesses.

The troubling issue is the apparent haste with which Bragg went from zero to 60 in his interest in pursuing Trump. To resurrect a cold case like this, it takes a very determined and bold prosecutor – adjectives that are not applicable before in Bragg’s behavior towards Trump – so we have to ask how Bragg is. react to public criticism of him or even feel a sense of competition with Fanni Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia, who has been work on his potential case against Trump for almost two years.

Don’t get me wrong – I think prosecutors are to be applauded when they are not afraid to bring hard cases and prove them. But haste makes waste is an adage equally applicable to criminal cases, and I hope it doesn’t end up being the epitaph of any charges brought against Trump by Alvin Bragg.

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