Saturday, September 23, 2023

Former President Donald Trump’s failed attempt to move Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s hush-money case to federal court may end up bolstering the prosecutor’s case, according to The Daily Beast’s Jose Pagliery. Trump’s move gave U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein a chance to “take the first swing,” which he used to “make it clear that the case against Trump is far more serious than it otherwise seems,” Pagliery wrote. Former New York prosecutor John Moscow told the outlet that Hellerstein’s rejection of Trump’s effort was effectively “a seal of approval on the indictment.”

Bragg’s case hinges heavily on federal issues — when Trump allegedly arranged for his former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, to send a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels he did so “in the service of sparing his presidential campaign from potentially calamitous embarrassment during a national, and thus federal, election.” Trump’s ostensible plan in pushing his case to federal court was to hope for a trial appeal, as any appeal would likely see the Supreme Court — and thereby the 6-to-3 conservative majority Trump helped to position there — take the reins.

Following a June hearing, Hellerstein wrote in a June 19 order affirming the strength of the DA’s case. “Whatever the standard, and whether it is high or low, Trump fails to satisfy it,” Hellerstein wrote. “Trump has not explained how hiring and making payments to a personal attorney to handle personal affairs carries out a constitutional duty. Reimbursing Cohen for advancing hush money to Stephanie Clifford cannot be considered the performance of a constitutional duty.” The judge added: “Falsifying business records to hide such reimbursement, and to transform the reimbursement into a business expense for Trump and income to Cohen, likewise does not relate to a presidential duty. Trump is not immune from the People’s prosecution in New York Supreme Court. Trump can be convicted of a felony even if he did not commit any crime beyond the falsification, so long as he intended to do so or to conceal such a crime.”


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