Politics /

New York Attorneys Say Manhattan DA's Case Against Trump Is Flimsy

'Legally, it is a weak case,' said one former criminal defense attorney

As speculation continues over whether Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg will indict former President Trump over an alleged payment to an adult film star, a number of attorneys in New York — where Democrat voters outnumber Republicans by more than double — say the case is extraordinarily weak.

“This case is a joke, frankly, and I’ve litigated against that office for 33 years,” longtime New York criminal-defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman told Rolling Stone. “I don’t think that case is winnable.”

According to the publication, some legal experts who are anti-Trump do not believe Bragg is building a solid case for prosecuting the 45th President. Prosecutors are seeking to convince a grand jury that if the $130,000 payment was made to actress Stormy Daniels from Trump’s then-attorney Michael Cohen, it would constitute an illegal business practice.

Further complicating Bragg’s case is a newly resurfaced letter from Cohen’s legal counsel telling the Federal Election Commission that Cohen “used his own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to [Daniels].”

The letter added, “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the payment directly or indirectly.”

Randy Zelin, an adjunct professor at Cornell Law School who has been a criminal defense attorney for 32 years and has worked as a prosecutor, told Rolling Stone Bragg’s case is flimsy.

“I do not believe, based upon what we know, that the felony charge will stick,” said Zelin, who is not a Trump supporter.

“I think that the district attorney’s office in New York County is running a great risk of diluting the strength of other potential cases brought by other prosecutors, because this is a weak case — legally, it is a weak case,” he added.

“Practically, it is really more or less a victimless crime, unless you believe that the election was truly influenced by the fact that people didn’t know about the hush-money payments,” Zelin says. “And with all of the stuff that he has said, does anyone really believe that if it got out that he paid Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, that it would have changed the election? Probably not.”

Peter Brill, another anti-Trump New York attorney, raised similar concerns.

“I think that the basis for the felony, linking it to campaign-finance declarations … it’s a strange way to get to an indictment, especially in a falsifying-business-records situation that’s often charged as a misdemeanor,” Brill told Rolling Stone. “On the one hand, the facts seem fairly damning, but the foundation that they’re built on is weaker than I would hope for in the first criminal indictment or criminal charge [against] Trump.”

The attorneys the magazine interviewed are part of a growing chorus of Trump detractors who are openly expressing concerns about the viability of the Manhattan DA’s case.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who repeatedly called for Trump’s impeachment and removal from officer, refused to say if he had confidence in Bragg, telling reporters only, “Look, the bottom line, is — as I said — it’s premature to comment on what’s happening and we’ll have to wait and see what he does.”

Former prosecutor Elliot Felig, speaking on the potential indictment, told the Washington Examiner, “To call it a novel prosecution would be an understatement. I’ve never seen anything like this in a state courtroom. They use a federal election law as a means to upgrade a state charge into a felony. I’m not aware of any prior prosecution.”

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