The former publisher of the National Enquirer, a convicted perjurer, and a 44-year-old porn star constitute the potential witnesses against Donald Trump. With the prosecution relying on that cast of characters, who needs a defense?
Not since Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s vault has anticipation led to such letdown as that which Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Tuesday gave to Democrats who regard Trump as Christians do Satan.
The 34 counts in the meager 15-page indictment suggest the inability of lawyers to count. The charges pertain to a few alleged hush payments that, through the magic of multiple charges on each payment, expand to 34 counts that threaten 136 years in prison. This, of course, would derail any Trump presidential runs from now through 2160. Some traumatized MSNBC viewers regard that as far too soon.
The People of the State of New York v. Trump — incidentally 62 percent of the former voted against the latter — leaves blank the underlying crime enabling the district attorney to charge Trump with felonies and skips over the nagging inconvenience of the statute of limitations. It affixes to charges the vague addendum “with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof.” Precisely what crime?
Alvin Bragg won’t tell us.
When asked about the underlying crime in the press conference afterward, Bragg lamely insisted that New York state law does not compel him to name the underlying crime. “The indictment doesn’t specify it because the law does not so require” strikes as lawyerspeak for “my dog ate my homework.”
Whatever New York law says, fairness demands that a defense know the charges they must defend against. And if the local district attorney cites the violation of a federal law to justify his crusade, then the prosecutor becomes the defense. What right would he possess to try a political enemy on essentially a violation of a federal law, let alone one the feds declined to pursue?
Stipulating a crime when the defendant boasts a spotless criminal record strikes as Orwellian. Again, whatever the law says, basic fairness presumes innocence in the accused. This case, at least with regard to the underlying “crime,” assumes guilt in an offense not even charged let alone proven in court. Of course, hush payments — a kind phrase for submitting to de facto blackmail — do not break the law. They only smear when revealed, which seems the main purpose of this legal matter. And why charge the blackmailed instead of any blackmailers who took the money and spilled the beans?
While neither in indictment nor in press conference did Bragg specify the crimes that empower him to charge Trump, he did note in the latter that New York state law “makes it a crime to conspire to promote a candidacy by unlawful means.” He clearly believes this applies to what Trump’s bookkeeper did in 2017 rather than what he does now.
It seems strange that a man running for president in 2016 would conspire to promote his candidacy the following year. But the indictment, in dating the crimes as occurring from Valentine’s Day 2017 to Dec. 5 of that year, seemingly overlooks chronology. Even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez seems to grasp to not run commercials, canvass, or conduct get-out-the-vote campaigns three months after Election Day. Whether the bookkeeping constituted transgressions or not, no person possessing a brain can credibly say Trump’s people made them influence an election that he had already won.
Aside from the hard evidence stands common sense. The notion that anyone would pay Karen McDougal $150,000 to not tell anyone of a sexual relationship seems far less believable than paying Karen McDougal to tell everyone of a sexual relationship (whether it occurred or not). Even (especially?) a jury in Manhattan, where less than 15 percent of voters cast ballots for Trump, likely regards as far-fetched that sex with the fetching Ms. McDougal somehow hinders a man’s popularity and requires shut-up money to win an election.
Whether Bragg filed 34 or 1,034 charges against a man he clearly hates, he cannot wish away math with his zeal: a whole lot of zeros adds up to zero.