Manhattan DA facing 'historic moment' in Donald Trump criminal probes: Former federal prosecutor
Over the last few months, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has faced scrutiny for his presumed hesitancy to file charges against former President Donald Trump's business organization.
However, a new analysis is explaining how the New York prosecutor may be playing a strategic game of chess in his pursuit to prosecute the former president's business entities and his business associates.
Just Security's Andrew Weissmann noted that many have criticized Bragg based on his Day One memorandum and ultimately questioned about his ability to do his job. "The initial assessment of Bragg as not ready for primetime was based on his issuance of a Day One memorandum limiting the circumstances under which his office would prosecute arrested suspects," Weissmann wrote.
"That memorandum on its face had deep flaws that reflected a lack of robust internal vetting, and its public reception including by the NYPD, the Mayor’s Office, and the new Governor, revealed a lack of external vetting as well," he wrote. The memorandum was quickly withdrawn, but the damage was done: his office’s ineptitude in addition to setting back future initiatives of progressive prosecutors and created the lens through which all of Bragg’s subsequent acts would be judged."
While it may appear that Bragg is making little progress, Weissmann explained the significance of the plea agreement for the Trump Organization's former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg who recently pleaded guilty to 15 charges brought against him.
Per the report, Weisselberg "admitted to participating in a lengthy conspiracy in which he and other Trump company executives received millions of dollars of employment compensation hidden as untaxed perks, such as rent and utility payments for a swanky Manhattan apartment, luxury cars, and private school tuition."
As a result of the scheme, the companies and their executives received financial benefits and ultimately did not pay requisite state taxes or federal taxes on that form of compensation.
Weissmann broke down the benefits from both sides of the field. "Weisselberg got advantages out of the deal: He capped his sentencing exposure to 5 months in jail and was not required to fully cooperate, which would have meant disclosing all crimes he knows about, including his own and that of the former president," he noted.
"Bragg got a lot as well from the deal — and potentially a lot more than is visible now," he noted. "At the most basic level, Bragg avoided the risk of trial and got a conviction on every single count of the indictment, with Weisselberg agreeing under oath to the veracity of all the allegations in the indictment against him and the Trump entities."
He later added, "Bragg also greatly augmented the proof against the Trump entities in the upcoming trial."
Weissmann also pointed out another key detail about the case. "On closer inspection, Bragg got even more from last week’s plea. Assuming Weisselberg is asked about Trump at the trial (a fair assumption since, among other reasons, the former president’s conduct can result in criminal liability for the Trump entities), it would be exceedingly difficult for Weisselberg to avoid implicating Trump," he wrote.
Based on how the case has evolved against Weisselberg, Weissmann concluded that no one should underestimate Bragg's professional expertise.
"Whether Bragg will continue to prosecute aggressively and fairly remains to be seen, but for now it is certainly worth reconsidering the initial judgment concerning his work," he wrote. "He may well be rising to the historic moment in which he finds himself, and demonstrating the backbone, temperament, and principles necessary to the task at hand."
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