Jonathan Turley Destroys Manhattan DA's Case Against Trump

Bonnie Cash/Pool via AP

The timing of the reported indictment about to drop against President Donald Trump can only be called suspicious, given the Stormy Daniels issue has been lying fallow for years, with President Donald Trump now a declared candidate for the 2024 presidential nomination.

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It’s about the perp walk and the theatrics. Just like they tried the Jan. 6 Committee prior to the midterms, this is going to be the continuing thing that they will throw out there to attack Trump and the Republicans in the presidential race. It’s about the optics to move the middle/the independents away from Republicans.

But what about the legal case against Trump? George Washington law professor Jonathan Turley called it what it is: “legally pathetic.”

Although it may be politically popular, the case is legally pathetic. Bragg is struggling to twist state laws to effectively prosecute a federal case long ago rejected by the Justice Department against Trump over his payment of “hush money” to former stripper Stormy Daniels. In 2018 (yes, that is how long this theory has been around), I wrote how difficult such a federal case would be under existing election laws. Now, six years later, the same theory may be shoehorned into a state claim.

It is extremely difficult to show that paying money to cover up an embarrassing affair was done for election purposes as opposed to an array of obvious other reasons, from protecting a celebrity’s reputation to preserving a marriage. That was demonstrated by the failed federal prosecution of former presidential candidate John Edwards on a much stronger charge of using campaign funds to cover up an affair.

In this case, Trump reportedly paid Daniels $130,000 in the fall of 2016 to cut off or at least reduce any public scandal. The Southern District of New York’s U.S. Attorney’s office had no love lost for Trump, pursuing him and his associates in myriad investigations, but it ultimately rejected a prosecution based on the election law violations. It was not alone: The Federal Election Commission (FEC) chair also expressed doubts about the theory.

Prosecutors working under Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr., also reportedly rejected the viability of using a New York law to effectively charge a federal offense.

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Why didn’t they bring it earlier? Because they knew that it was a tenuous case at best. They’re only pulling it out of the hat, now that 2024 is about to be upon us.

As Turley notes, even Bragg himself wasn’t hot for this case when he came in, and two prosecutors quit because Bragg was refusing to go along with this. But desperation can go a long way. Turley points out that one of the prosecutors even wrote a book trying to lay out the case against Trump, which Turley said was “shocking” because it was “unprofessional and improper.” But now, Bragg ultimately appears to have caved into Democratic pressure and is going ahead with this charade.

However, Turley also makes another important point when it comes to the question of disparity of treatment here.

While we still do not know the specific state charges in the anticipated indictment, the most-discussed would fall under Section 175 for falsifying business records, based on the claim that Trump used legal expenses to conceal the alleged hush-payments that were supposedly used to violate federal election laws. While some legal experts have insisted such concealment is clearly a criminal matter that must be charged, they were conspicuously silent when Hillary Clinton faced a not-dissimilar campaign-finance allegation.

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That was the funding of the Steele dossier, which the Clinton campaign falsely declared as a “legal expense.” The FEC fined the Clinton campaign over that false filing. Not only did her team publicly lie about it, but they also promoted the false Russia collusion claims to the FBI and the media. Yet, where is the action against Clinton or the campaign for prosecution? Strangely missing. Talk about the disparity.

Turley pointed out other issues with the prosecution.

A Section 175 charge would normally be a misdemeanor. The only way to convert it into a Class E felony requires a showing that the “intent to defraud includes an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof.” That other crime would appear to be the federal election violations which the Justice Department previously declined to charge.

The linkage to a federal offense is critical for another reason: Bragg’s office ran out of time to prosecute this as a misdemeanor years ago; the statute of limitations is two years. Even if he shows this is a viable felony charge, the longer five-year limitation could be hard to establish.

Of course, none of these legalistic problems will be relevant in the coming frenzy. It will be a case that is nothing if not entertaining, one to which you can bring your popcorn — so long as you leave your principles behind.

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“The season opener of ‘America’s Got Trump’ might be a guaranteed hit with its New York audience — but it should be a flop as a prosecution,” Turley declared.

He also pointed out the banana republic look of the action, “The criminal justice system can be a terrible weapon when used for political purposes, an all-too-familiar spectacle in countries where political foes can be targeted by the party in power.”

Of course, we also have to account for the bias of the likely very liberal jury in New York. But, if it’s truly about the law, this case is ridiculous at its base and should go down to defeat.

That’s the thing here. The continuing effort against Trump isn’t about the law, principles, or even convicting Trump. It’s always about power and how the Democrats can win, and they’ve already shown they’re willing to do anything. They may know that they will ultimately lose, and that they might even have to drop the case. But the Democrats want to utilize it to attack Trump.

This may end up galvanizing more Americans around Trump. Twitter head Elon Musk is saying if they go ahead with this, he thinks Trump wins in a landslide. We’re already seeing some of those who were on the fence, now saying they would support Trump because of this action. We’ll have to see, but he just may be right.

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