Sunday, May 28, 2023
HomeCELEBRITIESAlvin Bragg Is Known as a Sharp, Methodical Prosecutor. Can He Handle...

Alvin Bragg Is Known as a Sharp, Methodical Prosecutor. Can He Handle the Politics of a Trump Indictment?

Donald Trump’s attacks on Alvin Bragg were escalating as the former president grew increasingly panicked that he was soon to be indicted by the Manhattan district attorney. So a friend sent Bragg a text, expressing concern for his well-being. The DA’s response was short, self-effacing, and utterly serene. It was only a text, but Bragg seemed unfazed by the maelstrom the former president was ginning up and aiming straight at him.

Bragg’s temperament under pressure has never been in doubt—not when he was a kid traveling from Harlem each day to study at a wealthy, predominantly white Upper West Side private school, not when he was a Harvard freshman trying to bridge tensions between Black and Jewish students, not when the front page of the New York Post was (misleadingly) blaming Bragg for a decrease in convictions. “Alvin was at the center of many high-profile, challenging cases,” says Amy Spitalnick, a colleague during Bragg’s time as New York State’s chief deputy attorney general. “He brought a levelheadedness that translated to the entire team.” Bragg’s legal skills draw similarly consistent praise, including his work as a federal prosecutor under former United States attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara. What is in question is Bragg’s political judgment—something that the Trump case is now severely testing.

Bragg, a 49-year-old father of two and a longtime Sunday school teacher, made his rookie run for public office in 2021. He announced early that he was going to challenge incumbent DA Cyrus Vance Jr.; after Vance decided not to run for reelection, Bragg won a sharply contested primary that, in heavily Democratic Manhattan, was tantamount to winning the general election. Upon taking office, Bragg found himself almost immediately engulfed in controversy. A memo to his new staff laid out his plans: With some exceptions, the office would no longer prosecute low-level offenses such as fare evasion and prostitution, and it would seek lesser charges for certain robberies in which the accused did not “create a genuine risk of physical harm.” These positions were consistent with Bragg’s campaign platform, but when the memo leaked, the Post declared it akin to a get-out-of-jail-free card. As a result of the memo, along with Bragg’s defense of bail reform and the city’s climbing postpandemic crime rate, the new DA spent his first year on the defensive. Bragg tinkered with some of the policy changes, and by the end of 2022, Manhattan’s shooting and homicide numbers were declining; other major crime categories have also been trending down in 2023. He also followed through on progressive initiatives, such as financing mental health care services for people arrested in Manhattan and funding multiple organizations with programs to prevent youth gun violence. But Bragg had allowed himself to be caricatured as soft on crime, something Trump and his allies are now trying to exploit.

Bragg inherited a Trump investigation from Vance. In February 2022, two special prosecutors hired by Vance quit, with one of them, Mark Pomerantz, blasting Bragg on his way out the door, claiming the DA was committing “a grave failure of justice” by not charging Trump with felonies related to his allegedly falsifying financial statements (Trump denies any wrongdoing). Pomerantz subsequently wrote a book detailing his argument. Now, about a month and a half after the book was published, Bragg appears to be on the verge of indicting Trump after all, having refocused his investigation on the hush money payment (Trump denies any wrongdoing in this case as well). “Did he see the light or feel the heat?” asks Tristan Snell, who helped lead the investigation into Trump University at the New York State attorney general’s office. “They slammed the brakes and a couple of people got out of the car and started yelling at him. That’s what changed. I think it’s very clear that the public reaction to not pursuing it really caught them off guard, and he realized he was out of step with his constituency.”

People who have worked with Bragg find this interpretation implausible. Instead, they believe it was completely in character for the DA to have slowed down the Trump investigation while methodically evaluating the evidence. His team may also be incorporating valuable new witnesses and fresh evidence, including Trump’s tax returns. And even Snell wholeheartedly backs Bragg against the critique that linking the murky payment to Stormy Daniels with an alleged violation of federal election regulations—something necessary to charge the former president with a felony—is a novel, tenuous legal strategy. “I think that criticism is ridiculous,” Snell says. “It’s not a novel legal theory to simply apply the plain letter of the law. Just because you haven’t had a situation where that law was paired with a particular crime before does not make it a weird, far-out legal theory. It just means that this permutation of laws has never occurred before. If people are going to say that this combination of statutes is uncharted—well, yeah, the combination of offenses is uncharted too.”

#Alvin #Bragg #Sharp #Methodical #Prosecutor #Handle #Politics #Trump #Indictment



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments