Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg officially indicted Donald Trump on April 4 on thirty-four counts of “falsifying business records in the first degree… with the intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof.”
This makes Trump the first president in US history to be indicted on a criminal charge. Not willing to let any opportunity — however ignominious — go to waste, Trump is already selling t-shirts on his website featuring a digitally-created mugshot with the words “Not Guilty” emblazoned below and the prisoner code “45-47” (get it?). The former president was not required to take an actual mugshot by Bragg’s office.
As if to mirror the weak quality of his case, Bragg was supposed to hold a press conference at 3:30 p.m., but he didn’t show up until shortly after 4. The presser itself was also a mess. Among his opening lines was, “We cannot and will not normalize serious criminal conduct.” Serious criminal conduct? What did Trump do, rob a bank? Cockburn also finds Bragg’s definition of “serious” a bit rich coming from a DA who downgraded “serious” offenses in New York City in an attempt to bolster his progressive bonafides.
Bragg attempted to frame the case as part and parcel of his office’s long tradition of tackling white-collar crime in Manhattan. He declared that, as the business capital of the world, Manhattan had to have strong enforcement against white-collar crime. A crafty way to try to evade the inevitable political angle of the situation: going after Trump just as any criminal businessman would be targeted — Bernie Madoff 2.0. You can count Cockburn skeptical on that one.
In case readers are concerned that there’s something fishy about the whole case, don’t you worry! “We today uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law,” Bragg said, “No amount of money and no amount of power changes that enduring American principle.” How comforting.
The DA was also not very willing to address in detail the questions raised by reporters — not that he gave them much time to ask anyway. Asked about why it was falsifying business records that he was charging — rather than the underlying crimes that he says Trump was covering up — he did not have much of a response. He listed some of the laws that were supposedly broken — including federal campaign contribution limits and New York State election laws against promoting candidacy by unlawful means — but that was the extent of his explanation. He promptly left the stage after a few questions. As the prosecutor heading up the first criminal indictment of a US president, the least he could have delivered was a decent explanation.
On today’s evidence, New York’s case against Trump is as weak as analysts have been predicting for some time. Cockburn is perturbed by the whole affair. What will this mean for the American polity going forward? If a crime was committed — and it may well have been in the other documents case — then sure, charge a president. But a political prosecution as seemingly spurious as Bragg’s… haven’t we all suffered enough?