New Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has made plenty of news announcing the prosecutions he won’t carry out. But one might recall he entered office with fanfare over the case he might prosecute.
Bragg and his deputies are continuing the investigation of the Trump Organization–the sprawling real estate, hotels, casinos, golf courses, and other assets of the Trump family. But the real target has always been inflicting damage on the 45th president–another branch of the relentless resistance-based pursuits detailed in “Abuse of Power.”
Bragg is picking up where his predecessor Cyrus Vance Jr. left off to harpoon former President Donald Trump.
Bragg is keeping two of the senior lawyers on staff that were deeply involved in the Trump investigation. The media also swooned about how Bragg was weighing “whether to make Donald Trump the first former president ever charged with a crime.”
Bragg made new rules upon entering office, announcing only violent crimes would be fully prosecuted and even seemed to want to apply lesser charges to crimes such as armed robbery. This quickly irked New York City Police officers.
Never fear. Bragg told CNN that the Trump case is “consequential” and “merits the attention of the D.A. personally.”
Such a case could keep him on CNN and MSNBC quite a bit. Still, if Trump opts not to run for president in 2024, a DA may find little reason to continue a politically-inspired investigation if it’s not bearing fruit.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be anything for Bragg to boast about in a probe that is primarily exploring whether the Trump Organization was honest to tax officials and bankers about the value of its properties.
But, the probe itself is clearly a “resistance” politically-inspired probe. Former DA Vance assumed office in 2010 and never looked into Trump’s company until he was president.
To be fair, Vance’s office did secure indictments last year against the Trump Organization and longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg on 15 counts, including tax fraud and grand larceny. Still, he exited without charging Trump with anything.
And given the track record of past Trump investigations explored in “ Abuse of Power,” we might be inclined to assume there won’t be any charges here just as there were no charges in the special counsel’s Russia conspiracy probe, or any criminal charges stemming from the Ukraine phone call that led to the president’s first House Democrat impeachment.
There have been plenty of bad actors that rationalized the ends justify the means to try to get rid of Trump, as we saw with the bogus Steele dossier that commenced the Russia probe, accompanied by years of dishonesty from Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and others.
To be sure, there are other investigations still going on from multiple fronts, including New York Attorney General Letitia James. For that matter, the Westchester County District Attorney’s office even launched a probe regarding a Trump-owned golf course. Investigating Trump is good politics in New York.
Trump calls every investigation of him a witch hunt, and he has often been correct. But, it’s quite probable a company the size of the Trump Organization wasn’t on the up and up with tax collectors and banks. Or, there might be more serious crimes. If so, Donald Trump should be held accountable.
Vance handed the probe of an ex-president to Bragg. Keep in mind that Ken Starr stepped away as independent counsel, leaving it to his replacement Robert Ray to cut a 2001 deal with outgoing President Bill Clinton. Clinton admitted to dishonesty and surrendered his law license to dodge possible future prosecution as a private citizen.
The parallel doesn’t go that far. Starr had something to show before leaving his post–a dozen convictions in the Whitewater case, the ouster of Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, and a Clinton impeachment. Vance left almost empty-handed on the Trump probe.
Perhaps Bragg—or one of the other Trump hunters—will strike prosecutorial gold for an Impeachment 3.0 of sorts. Though, at this point, much of the public is growing bored with such probes. The end of Cyrus Vance Jr.’s term offers another milestone for a parade of Captain Ahabs who aimed and missed their desired prey.
Fred Lucas is chief national affairs correspondent for The Daily Signal and the author of “Abuse of Power: Inside The Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump.”