This Week In Lawfare Land: 'Vindictive Prosecution'

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  • Source: The Federalist
  • 05/07/2024

The lawfare crusade against former President Donald Trump continued in Manhattan this week as the criminal trial for alleged “hush money” payments wrapped up its 11th day, in what is expected to be a weeks-long affair. 

But as the criminal trial in Manhattan heats up, the other cases against President Trump have slowed to a halt while appeals and motions are pending, including District Attorney Fani Willis’ case in Georgia over Trump’s questioning of election results, Special Counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 case accusing Trump of conspiracy and obstruction, and Special Counsel Smith’s classified documents case. 

Manhattan, New York: Prosecution by DA Alvin Bragg for NDA Payment

How we got here: In this New York state criminal case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg — who The New York Times acknowledged had “campaigned as the best candidate to go after the former president” — charged former President Donald Trump in April 2023 with 34 felony charges for alleged falsification of business records.

Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen paid pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election as part of a nondisclosure agreement in which she agreed not to publicize her claims that she had an affair with Trump (who denies the allegations). Nondisclosure agreements are not illegal, but Bragg claims Trump concealed the payment to help his 2016 election chances and in doing so was concealing a “crime.”

On May 2, the prosecution also played a 2016 audio recording of President Trump and his then-lawyer Michael Cohen allegedly discussing the purchase of Karen McDougal’s extramarital affair allegations. 

As of this week, Trump had already been fined $9,000 stemming from 9 alleged violations of Judge Merchan’s gag order. Another hearing on 4 additional gag order violations was held on May 2, and a ruling is still pending. This week, Judge Merchan also issued a written order threatening Trump with jail time for future gag order violations. Trump has continually referred to the gag order as “unconstitutional.”  


Fulton County, Georgia: Prosecution by DA Fani Willis for Questioning Election Results

How we got here: The Georgia state criminal case is helmed by District Attorney Fani Willis and her team of prosecutors — which until recently included Nathan Wade, with whom Willis had an improper romantic relationship. Willis charged Trump in August 2023 with 13 felony counts, including racketeering charges, related to his alleged attempt to challenge the 2020 election results in Georgia.

President Trump is joined by 18 co-defendants, including Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, Sidney Powell, and others. Some of President Trump’s co-defendants have reached plea deals; others have petitioned to have the case removed to federal court, each attempt of which has been denied. A trial date has not yet been set, though prosecutors have asked for a trial to begin on Aug. 5, just a few short weeks after the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. 

Washington, D.C.:  Prosecution by Biden DOJ for Jan. 6 Speech

How we got here: In this federal criminal case, special counsel Jack Smith and federal prosecutors charged former President Trump in August 2023 with four counts of conspiracy and obstruction related to his actions on Jan. 6, 2021. President Trump’s lawyers have argued that immunity extends to actions taken by a president while acting in his official capacity and that, in any event, the First Amendment protects his right to raise legitimate questions about a questionable election process.

Latest developments: This case is currently stalled while awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court on former President Trump’s immunity claim. The Supreme Court held oral arguments on April 25, but it remains unclear when the Supreme Court will issue a final ruling. 

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