Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s reported impending prosecution of former President Donald Trump is based on “made-up laws,” according to prominent legal expert Alan Dershowitz.
But even so, Dershowitz said he thinks that Trump would unlikely receive a fair trial in a city that leans heavily blue.
The expert was responding to reports that Trump may soon be indicted on charges surrounding hush money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. That would make Trump the first former president to be criminally charged.
Days before the 2016 presidential election, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence on claims that she had an affair with Trump years earlier, which the former president denies. Cohen pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws in 2018 for arranging payment to Daniels and another woman claiming to have had an affair with Trump. Cohen claims to have done so at Trump's direction and was reimbursed by the Trump Organization through routine legal expenses.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, claiming that he’s a victim of extortion.
Bragg’s criminal case appears to be centered on whether Trump falsified business records—a state offense—to cover up Cohen’s campaign finance violations of federal law.
“Nobody should ever be arrested based on made-up laws or combining a federal and state statute,” Dershowitz told The Epoch Times in an interview on March 18. “I taught criminal law for 50 years at Harvard, and the one rule was, no creativity is permitted by prosecutors. The law has to be clear.”
He queried Bragg’s apparent attempt to elevate a falsifying-records case to a felony from a misdemeanor by tying it to an alleged violation of federal campaign finance law.
“In order to turn the state statute into a felony, you have to borrow a federal statute,” Dershowitz told The Epoch Times in an earlier interview, on March 16. He said that this combining of laws “seems to raise real serious legal questions.”
“In Bragg's case, what they're trying to do is add one and one, and come up with 11,” Dershowitz said. “No rational person would look at these two statutes and say that Trump violated them.”
“Thomas Jefferson once put it very nicely: For a criminal statute to be constitutional, the average person has to be able to understand it if he reads it while running."
The case pursued by Bragg, a Democrat, is politically motivated, Dershowitz says.
“It's not a righteous prosecution. It's not a just prosecution. And I think every libertarian, whether you're conservative, or liberal, should be opposed to it,” he said.
“I can't imagine that an appellate court would ever hold this, but I don't think Bragg cares about this. He wants the publicity of a perp walk and an arrest.”
Conviction?If an indictment does materialize, Dershowitz said he believes that Trump would “likely” end up with a criminal conviction.
“Because I don't think that Trump can get a fair trial in New York,” the legal expert said, pointing to the predominantly Democrat population in the city.
A criminal conviction, he said, is thus the “most likely outcome.”
“Then, it will be reversed on appeal, but by that time, will be deep into the election cycle,” Dershowitz said, referring to the 2024 presidential election.
“They're searching for crimes to get him. They're just rummaging through the law books and doing everything they can to get him, but I don't think they've succeeded,” he said.
“He’s not going to get prison, but nonetheless, he can run as a convicted defendant.”
A Trump spokesperson, in a statement to The Epoch Times, described the case as another instance of “the weaponization of our injustice system.”
“The George Soros-funded Radical Left Democrat prosecutor in Manhattan has decided to take his Witch-Hunt to the next level,” the spokesperson wrote.
Trump, for his part, has maintained that he would stay in the race if he’s criminally charged.
“Oh, absolutely, I won’t even think about leaving,” Trump told reporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 4, in response to a question on the matter. “Probably, it’ll enhance my numbers, but it’s a very bad thing for America. It’s very bad for the country.”
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office didn't respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.