Alvin Bragg v. Donald Trump: The North American Banana Republic

Former President Donald Trump was just indicted on 34 counts in Manhattan. The charges are brought by DA Alvin Bragg, who has ties to George Soros. The charges allege falsification of business records with the intent to conceal another crime. The concealment of another crime (the aspect of the charge making it a felony) relates to federal campaign finance laws and the “hush money” payment to Stormy Daniels. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) looked into the payments to Daniels, but voted 4-1 to close the investigation because they could not prove that Trump “knowingly and willfully” violated the law. Similarly, the Southern District of New York’s federal prosecutors declined prosecution of the alleged campaign finance violations. Thus, to convict Trump on the state records violation charges, state prosecutors must also prove the federal case that the FEC and SDNY declined to pursue.

Bragg’s office will face a hurdle in showing that the Daniels money was paid for election purposes rather than to protect Trump’s reputation or save his marriage to Melania. Trump can also put forward a defense of reliance on the advice of counsel—Michael Cohen. Cohen, of course, is the one who orchestrated the payments and pled guilty to multiple crimes, including campaign finance violations. In considering all this, we should note that federal prosecutors failed to convict former Senator John Edwards in 2012 in similar circumstances. Edwards was accused of violating campaign finance laws when he took money from donors in his 2008 presidential campaign to hide an extramarital affair.

Of course, before Bragg’s crew ever gets to a trial, it will face a bevy of motions from the Trump defense teams raising multiple issues, such as the statute of limitations.

Trump is the first former president to face criminal charges. This is a significant fact. In the United States, there is no practice of political victors jailing their opponents. However, in other countries, such an occurrence is a common practice. Are we descending to the level of Vladimir Putin or Robert Mugabe? Bragg’s prosecution of Trump on “business records” charges stinks to high heaven. While no man is above the law—even a former president—we should not replicate the practices of authoritarian states or banana republics where opposition leaders find themselves harassed by the criminal justice system and cast into prison to protect the corrupt regime.

William J. Watkins, Jr. is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books, Crossroads for Liberty, Reclaiming the American Revolution, and Patent Trolls.
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