The Possible New York Indictment Against Trump Is Bigger Than Politics

AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

A new development has emerged in the ongoing saga between the Manhattan, New York, District Attorney’s office and former President Donald Trump. Last Saturday, Trump announced that he expected to be arrested within the next few days, and the interwebs and airwaves were set ablaze with an inferno of speculation and political posturing.

When it was revealed that District Attorney Alvin Bragg might be indicting the former president over his alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels over a supposed one-night stand, folks on the right and even on the left questioned the veracity of such an indictment. But it appears Bragg, already under scrutiny over this apparent politically-motivated action, has already engaged in shady behavior to justify the potential indictment.

Bragg is being accused of concealing hundreds of pages of exculpatory evidence from members of the New York grand jury, which has not yet recommended an indictment.

On Monday, Robert Costello, former legal advisor to Michael Cohen, testified before the grand jury in the Manhattan District Attorney’s ongoing investigation into former President Donald Trump. The investigation centers on the $130,000 payment made by Cohen to adult film star Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels, in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.

Costello spoke to reporters after his testimony and accused Cohen of being a “serial liar.” He stated that Trump did not know about the payments made to Daniels. Costello claimed that Cohen was “pacing like a wild tiger in a cage, back and forth, back and forth,” during a meeting, in which he asked for “an escape hatch” and inquired about his options for commutation.

The former advisor to Cohen explained that while Cohen had been truthful in rare occasions that benefitted him, he was otherwise unreliable. “When it was in Mr. Cohen’s personal self-interest, he was capable of telling the truth, but those occasions were few and far between,” said Costello.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation has been ongoing since 2018, and with Costello’s testimony, it appears to have gained further momentum. It remains to be seen what charges, if any, will be brought against Trump. However, Costello’s testimony reinforces the view that Cohen is a questionable source of information, and highlights the complicated nature of the ongoing investigation.

“There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Michael Cohen has great difficulty telling the truth,” Costello said. “He is, after all a convicted perjurer, and our track record with Mr. Cohen convinced us that he was a serial liar.”

“As might be expected, Mr. Cohen’s lies were always uttered in a way that was beneficial to himself,” Costello explained. “When it was in Mr. Cohen’s personal self-interest, he was capable of telling the truth, but those occasions were few and far between.”

During a meeting, Costello claimed that Cohen was “pacing like a wild tiger in a cage, back and forth, back and forth.”

“Michael Cohen, in that state of high anxiety, when he said to us numerous times, ‘I’m looking for a way out, I need an escape hatch, how do I do this? I need to know what my options are,’” Costello recalled, adding that Cohen asked if he had “a chance for commutation.”

In another meeting Costello declared: “I want you guys to know I will do whatever the f— it takes. I will never spend one day in jail.”

“He must have said that close to 20 times,” Costello said during the proceedings. “This was his mantra all day long. You think a guy whose mindset right at that moment is a lie, cheat, steal shoot somebody. Whatever it takes. I’m not going to jail – Well –  he went to jail, and now he’s on the revenge tour.”

But Costello had more to say about the grand jury hearings. He said that he provided Bragg’s office with “hundreds of pages” of evidence showing that Trump is not guilty of the crime of which he is being accused. Fox News’ Greg Jarrett addressed the issue on his show.

“I mentioned it yesterday, I think, when Bob Costello got into that Grand Jury room and told them, ‘Wait a minute. You don’t have the hundreds of pages I handed over to Alvin Bragg over here? You only have six cherry-picked documents?’ You know, hiding from grand juries exculpatory information is reprehensible and unconscionable,” Jarrett said. “And the conduct of Alvin Bragg and his henchman Mark Pomeranz, who specifically says in his book, ‘We’re targeting zombies because we don’t like his beliefs,’ those guys should face disbarment proceedings.”

It’s important to remember that when it comes to the law, there is no room for assumptions or hearsay. The recent case against former President Trump’s alleged campaign finance violation is no exception. The flawed logic presented by the prosecution is two-fold: first, non-disclosure agreements in exchange for money are perfectly legal, and second, Cohen has already stated that the payment had nothing to do with the campaign. As such, it is not an illegal campaign donation under the law. Therefore, there is no crime.

Given these facts, it is clear that the prosecution’s case against Trump is weak and desperate. Moreover, the idea that Bragg’s office is holding back evidence that might cause members of the grand jury to doubt whether Trump should be facing arrest speaks to a larger issue in our justice system.

What is happening to Trump happens to everyday Americans every day in this country. When seeking to indict and arrest someone a prosecutor has full control over what evidence is provided to a grand jury. That person’s role is show there is enough evidence to warrant an arrest and trial – and nothing else.

The accused does not have the right to have a defense attorney represent them before the grand jury. They are also not allowed to defend themselves. The bulk of the power over what the grand jury is allowed to see is at the full discretion of the prosecutor.

This means that if there is evidence showing the suspect did not commit the crime, the prosecutor does not have to let members of the grand jury see it. Indeed, he can hold back witness testimony and other forms of exculpatory evidence if it means he will get a chance to arrest the individual being targeted for a crime.

Nolo explained:

Prosecutors present evidence of criminal activity in an attempt to convince the grand jury that criminal charges are warranted. In some states and in federal court, they don’t have to present any evidence suggesting that the target is innocent. The rationale is that the defendant will have the opportunity to present this evidence at trial.

For example, if prosecutors are seeking an indictment of Jane for an armed robbery, they might offer evidence of her fingerprints at the crime scene and a suitcase of money found in her car. In some states and in federal court, they wouldn’t have to tell the grand jury that she has an alibi for the robbery.

Some argue that this is fair for the aforementioned reason – the accused will be able to have representation when brought to trial. But shouldn’t there be a more stringent system for allowing prosecutors to indict and arrest people? If a prosecutor is able to secure an indictment so easily, this means the individual has to go through the heart wrenching process of being arrested and a lengthy trial that would cause major upheaval in their lives. This is yet another subtle way to threaten liberty and should probably be re-examined.

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