FEC commissioner pulls rug from DA Bragg's anti-Trump indictment, explains why no campaign finance violation occurred

 April 7, 2023

Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged former President Donald Trump with 34 felony counts of falsification of business records, a crime that is typically a misdemeanor unless committed to cover up a separate crime -- one that Bragg has refused to specify in the indictment, the supporting statement of facts, or through his public comments.

It is widely presumed that Bragg has sought to connect the alleged business records falsification with some sort of federal campaign finance law violation, but the problem there is both that he lacks any federal jurisdiction as well as that the feds already looked at and decided against pursuing any campaign finance law violations against Trump, HotAir reported.

What is the predicate crime?

DA Bragg's indictment of former President Trump is in regard to the 2017 reimbursement of then-personal attorney Michael Cohen for the 2016 payment of $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels to silence her with a non-disclosure agreement about an alleged 2006 affair.

Based on Bragg's statement of facts and numerous leak-based media reports prior to the issuance of the indictment, as well as Cohen's own 2018 plea deal with federal prosecutors, the theory goes that the NDA plus "hush money" payment and subsequent reimbursement should have all been disclosed as in-kind contributions to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Yet, according to the Washington Examiner, that theory was thoroughly rejected by Federal Election Commission member James "Trey" Trainor, who said on Friday, "It's not a campaign finance violation. It's not a reporting violation of any kind."

Trainor, an elections attorney from Texas appointed to the FEC by Trump, added that Bragg's theory was "really trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole."

FEC commissioner explains lack of campaign finance violation

In offering up reasons for why the FEC had already looked at but rejected the same theory now put forward by DA Bragg, Trainor noted both that Cohen had already accepted blame for any potential violation through his plea deal along with the fact that any alleged filing violations would have occurred after the 2016 election had concluded.

Perhaps most importantly, he also pointed out that any alleged violation would have had to have been obviously made solely to influence the outcome of the election and for no other possible viable reason, such as avoidance of embarrassment with his wife and family or the general public.

"It has to be something that anybody on the street can look at and say the only reason you did that was to influence the campaign," Trainor explained. "There's a lot of reasons that he could have done it that aren't related to him being a candidate for president, and so therefore, it wouldn't have met the standard as campaign expenditure under federal law."

"I don't know how you get around the evidence that both the Department of Justice in their investigation of the federal campaign finance issues and the Federal Election Commission in their ultimate jurisdiction over campaign finance issues, neither of them found there to be any violations whatsoever," the commissioner added, "and I think the jury is going to see that and they're going to have to rely upon the fact that both the law enforcement experts and the civil enforcement experts, as far as campaign finance are concerned, didn't find any violation of the law here."

A "partisan hatchet job" and substance-free "legal Slurpee"

HotAir contemplated the possibility that DA Bragg's unspecified predicate crime upon which the up-charged felony business records falsification charges are based is not a federal campaign finance law violation but rather is the state-level crime of defrauding New York voters, but even there everything falls apart for the prosecutor, as outlined by former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy in the New York Post.

In picking apart Bragg's "utterly incoherent" indictment, McCarthy noted -- as did Trainor -- that the alleged records falsification for which Trump is now charged occurred between February and December of 2017, months after the election was held and Trump was already in office as president -- meaning the reimbursements couldn't possibly have fraudulently influenced voters in an election that was already concluded.

Furthermore, NDAs and "hush money" payments to cover up "unsavory" information, while perhaps tasteless and unethical, are not illegal. And on top of that, the business records that Trump is alleged to have falsified were purely internal bookkeeping records not used for tax purposes or anything else the state has jurisdiction over.

In the end, McCarthy dismissed Bragg's indictment as "idiotic" and a "partisan hatchet job." the best description of the indictment, however, came from law professor Jonathan Turley, who likened it to "a legal Slurpee" in that "it was immediately satisfying for many with virtually no legal substance."

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