NEW YORK—Following the unsealing of the indictment against former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, legal experts say the charges laid out in the indictment are vague, dubious, and lack merit.
“There is no part of the case that is not weak,” Alan Dershowitz, an attorney who taught law at Harvard Law School for nearly 50 years and was part of Trump’s impeachment defense team in 2019, told The Epoch Times in an interview on Wednesday.
Trump was charged with 34 counts of felony-level falsifying business records, Chris Conry, a prosecutor at the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, revealed during Trump’s arraignment hearing on Tuesday.
Prosecutors allege that Trump directed one of his lawyers, Michael Cohen, during the 2016 presidential election to pay adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to prevent her from going public about an alleged affair between her and Trump in 2006, which the former president denies.
Court filings allege that Trump then reimbursed Cohen through monthly checks and documented that payment as legal expenses in the Trump Organization, leading to 34 false entries in New York business records.
A felony falsifying records charge requires a prosecutor to prove that it was done with the intent to hide the commission of a second crime.
The indictment and court documents do not specify this second crime. But Bragg, at a Tuesday press conference, mentioned three possibilities: a violation of state election law that bars any conspiracy to promote a candidate “by unlawful means,” a violation of a federal cap on campaign contributions, and a violation of state tax law.
To legal experts, Bragg’s case stands on shaky ground on several fronts.
First, arguing that state law was broken to hide a federal campaign finance law violation is unusual and some say this contention doesn’t hold water. Then, it may be difficult to show that the hush money payment constituted a campaign expenditure—rather than an expense in a personal matter—which is a key element in proving an election law violation.
Bragg’s lack of clarity on what the second crime actually is is also highly problematic, experts said.
By Gary Bai