George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley argued Tuesday that the Manhattan district attorney’s decision to prosecute Donald Trump over alleged hush money payments could actually help the former president in other legal cases.
“I’m afraid this has all of the markings of a political prosecution. It’s hard to escape that conclusion,” Turley told Fox News.
“Previous prosecutors rejected this claim who decided not to move on it, including the Department of Justice. What he’s trying to do is to bootstrap a state misdemeanor into a federal alleged crime that the federal government decided to pass on,” he added.
The charge a New York grand jury is currently reportedly considering is whether a 2016 $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels by then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen constituted a campaign finance violation.
Daniels alleged that she and Trump had a sexual liaison in 2006. Trump has denied the encounter happened.
Turley discussed the legally fraught territory on which Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case rests.
That statute of limitations for a state misdemeanor crime of falsifying a business record is two years, Turley noted. New York law allows a misdemeanor to be bumped up to a felony if the business record was falsified in furtherance of breaking another law, but the statute of limitations for the campaign finance violation is five years, he wrote.
The alleged criminal conduct in question happened seven years ago.
Of the three main criminal investigations against Trump — the DOJ-led mishandling of classified documents Mar-a-Lago case, the state of Georgia’s review of the 45th president’s conduct following the 2020 election, and the Manhattan DA’s case — the New York prosecution is the weakest, Turley contended.
“The irony here is that if Donald Trump could pick one of these torpedoes to hit, this would be the one. Because he’s been arguing that they’re politicizing the criminal justice system and Alvin Bragg just gave him proof positive that that narrative is correct,” he said.
“What Bragg has done is he’s now going to paint all those other cases if they do end up in indictment with the same brush,” Turley explained. “So Bragg has undermined these other cases while he has, in my view, empowered Donald Trump in a very significant way.”
The law professor pointed out that the DA’s case is built on Cohen’s and Daniels’ testimony.
Cohen has been disbarred and convicted of making false statements to Congress.
The former New York attorney provides “a target-rich environment for cross-examination,” Turley said.
Daniels lost a defamation suit appeal to Trump last year and was ordered to pay $300,000 in attorneys fees to the former president.
Turley contended that Bragg after coming to office in January 2022 had “the right instincts, originally” on the case against Trump by throwing a “red flag” on it.
“Now he’s going to take this very dubious legal theory to court based on very equally dubious legal witnesses, a disbarred lawyer and a porn star,” Turley said.
The Washington Post reported, “Within Bragg’s office, this had been known in the past as the ‘zombie’ case,” because it was considered dead.
In fact, two prosecutors in the Manhattan DA’s office quit last year in protest over Bragg’s decision not to move forward with the case.
Robert Katzberg, a white-collar defense attorney, told the Post, “It is certainly a winnable case, but given the legal landscape, it would hardly be the first criminal case that I would bring against Donald Trump.”
“Prosecutors follow the principle that you must win the first case,” he further noted, but this one could easily be lost.
Therefore federal and Georgia prosecutors cannot be thrilled if Bragg’s office brings the first indictment “unless there are some extraordinary facts lying below the public domain,” Katzberg said.
Trump wrote on TruthSocial Sunday that he committed “no crime, period” and past prosecutors agreed deciding not to press charges.
Bragg’s decision to reverse course and charge him constitutes, “Prosecutorial misconduct and interference with an election. Investigate the investigators!”