Trump Goes On Trial

Alvin Bragg’s criminal case against Donald Trump goes to trial today. It says something about the world we live in that we haven’t even bothered to mention it lately.

I summed up Bragg’s case against Trump here. In a word, it is pathetic. Trump made one or more “hush money” payments to Stormy Daniels, which was perfectly legal. The alleged crime is that his business documents reflect falsely that the payments were for legal fees and expenses. They were made to Michael Cohen, who in turn paid Daniels.

This is exactly the same dodge that Hillary Clinton’s campaign used when it camouflaged its payment for the fake Fusion GPS Trump dossier as payments to its law firm, Perkins Coie. Hillary’s case was much worse, however, as the payments were made by her campaign, not by her personally, and her false filing with the FEC was a campaign finance violation. Hillary, of course, has not been indicted.

The case against Trump is a joke because the records violation of which Trump is accused is a misdemeanor, on which the statute of limitations has run. It is only a felony if the records were falsified to cover up another crime. That is what Bragg alleges. But what crime? Bragg’s indictment doesn’t say. Presumably his theory will be that the payment to Daniels was a campaign finance violation, only it wasn’t. The payment was legal and no false filing was made with the FEC. Trump has not been charged with, let alone convicted of, any such violation.

So the case against Trump is terrible. But does it matter? The only reason Bragg brought the case (and the only reason the other prosecutions of Trump have been brought) is so that Democratic Party news outlets can say that Trump is a “convicted felon.” That is all that matters until November. Any conviction will most likely be reversed on appeal, but not until long after the election.

So the trial is really a show, with the jury in the starring role. Can Donald Trump get a fair trial in front of a Manhattan jury? No. He is reviled there. Jurors will understand the politics of what they are engaged in, and my guess is that they will play their part to the letter. Any trial lawyer will tell you that the most important thing he does in any trial is pick the jury. And here, I am afraid that is a hopeless task.

So, good luck to Trump’s lawyers. Maybe lightning will strike and the jury will include one honest man (or woman). But don’t count on it. Regardless of the weakness of the case, a conviction is highly probable, with the result that newspapers and TV networks will do their “convicted felon” shtick for the next six months. The consequences of that are unpredictable, but they can’t be good.

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