Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was true to his values ​​in the Trump case, colleagues say

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was true to his values ​​in the Trump case, colleagues say

NEW YORK – Alvin Bragg watched his place in the history books take shape from the second row of the courtroom on Thursday, as The jury foreman rose from his seat and confidently announced each of the 34 guilty verdicts against Donald Trump.

Bragg (D), Manhattan’s elected district attorney, had weathered a wave of criticism for bringing charges against the former president for allegedly falsifying business records related to a hush payment before the 2016 election.

Some thought the case was weak. Others, specifically the accused and his allies, continue to insist, without offering evidence, that this was a politically motivated attack against Trump, the presumptive Republican candidate in this year’s presidential election.

Those who know Bragg say he approached the prosecution the same way he approaches most cases: quietly and seriously. He was undeterred by constant political attacks, he says, and committed himself to following a novel legal theory that he believed made sense.

“Our job is to follow the facts and the law without fear or favor. And that’s exactly what we did here,” Bragg said at a news conference after the verdict.

Some elected officials He could have taken the opportunity to declare his claim. Bragg credited his trial team, jury, police and judicial system for handling the unprecedented challenge of hosting the trial, the first of its kind, and expressed “gratitude for working alongside phenomenal public servants.” .

Bragg, who declined to speak for this article, also referenced the legacy of the Manhattan district attorney’s office and called Trump’s prosecution part of a historic tradition of taking on powerful officials and others accused of betraying trust. of the public.

The indictment brought by Bragg last spring marked the first time a former U.S. president faced criminal charges. It was the first of four criminal indictments that would haunt Trump as he again sought his party’s nomination. The other cases, in D.C., Florida and Georgia, have been stalled by pretrial motions and appeals, and will not go to trial anytime soon.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg praised jurors and members of the prosecution team on May 30 following a guilty verdict for former President Donald Trump. (Video: The Washington Post)

Trump was convicted in New York for participating in a scheme to conceal the true nature of a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump years earlier. The jury found that Trump falsely classified his refund to his then-attorney, Michael Cohen, to protect his chances of winning.

Jim Walden, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, said Bragg “handled this case beautifully despite intense public scrutiny of his every move,” staying restrained and focusing on the jury, rather than himself, when it was over. .

Like other law enforcement figures who have clashed with Trump, Bragg, who is the first black district attorney in Manhattan, has has been inundated with race-based hate messages and threats of violence. Last year, investigators detected nearly 600 threats against Bragg, his family or his staff.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who successfully sued Trump and his eponymous company for engaging in a decade of fraud, has also been targeted by Trump and his supporters, with racist and sexist rants.

Instead of responding to the incessant attacks, Bragg stayed quiet and did his job, limiting his responses to what his team presented in court.

“I don’t think that moved him one bit away from what he thought was right,” said former prosecutor Xavier Donaldson, who has known Bragg since he began the district attorney’s legal career.

Originally from Harlem and a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School, Bragg is seen in the New York legal community as a stalwart of decency and professionalism in his work. Donaldson and others who know him from his stints as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan and the New York Attorney General’s office say they were not surprised by his poise under pressure.

Bragg “stayed the course and was very quiet about it… He was dedicated to prosecuting the case that he thought needed to be prosecuted,” said Donaldson, now a defense attorney in private practice. “You don’t want that type of person to be your adversary because she is committed to doing the right thing for the right reason.”

The team reacts to the guilty verdict against former President Donald Trump on 34 counts of falsifying business records. (Video: The Washington Post)

Trump-aligned Republicans, such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), have tried to drag Bragg into blatant political spectacles. This month, Jordan is seeking testimony from Bragg at a “Hearing on the Militarization of the Federal Government” in Congress. Last year, Bragg sued Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to stop his efforts to use his office to interfere in the case.

In what was widely seen as a partisan stunt, Jordan convened a committee hearing on public safety in New York shortly after Bragg impeached Trump, an effort to portray the district attorney as an inadequate crime fighter whose policies were amplifying a sense of danger in the country. city.

Since his four-year term began in 2022, Bragg has faced an avalanche of disapproval from police unions and residents who say his crime-fighting policies are too lenient.

Bragg’s responses to those complaints have been measured, and he has highlighted a number of successful investigations conducted by his office, including initiatives that he says have significantly reduced crime in some neighborhoods by tackling known untraceable gun peddlers. as “ghost weapons” and use community programs. intervene in the lives of children at risk.

By choosing to bring the hush money case against Trump, Bragg was breaking with his former colleagues in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, who investigated the matter and charged Cohen but declined to charge Trump.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to violating campaign finance law on the grounds that hush money benefited the Trump campaign and exceeded donation limits. He served time in prison for that charge and for tax evasion and lying to Congress.

Federal prosecutors could not have charged Trump in 2018 because of Justice Department prohibitions on charging a sitting president. Once Trump left office, they concluded that a case against him was too risky because it would rely heavily on the word of Cohen, by then a disbarred and felon lawyer, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.

Bragg’s team told jurors that Cohen’s testimony was supported by a mountain of evidence, including text messages, bank records, meeting notes and nine refund checks that Trump personally signed while in office that claimed the Payments to Cohen were actually routine legal fees.

During the trial, prosecutors guided jurors through a complicated theory of the case that required them to agree that Trump falsified records in an effort to affect the 2016 election, and that it was reasonable to conclude that he violated one of the three state laws while doing so.

In less than two full days of deliberations, after weeks of testimony, the jury concluded that Bragg’s instincts were correct.

Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.