‘Historic mistake’: Law professor takes apart Alvin Bragg’s case against Trump — then predicts the outcome

News & Politics

Jed Handelsman Shugerman, a law professor at Boston University, thinks Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s prosecution of Donald Trump is a “historic mistake.”

Shugerman made that conclusion after witnessing opening arguments on Monday in which prosecutors alleged Trump “orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election.”

In short, prosecutors claim Trump falsified business records to interfere in the 2016 election.

The problems with their thesis, Shugerman wrote in the New York Times, are obvious: an “unprecedented use of state law” and a “persistent avoidance of specifying an election crime or a valid theory of fraud.”

“As a reality check, it is legal for a candidate to pay for a nondisclosure agreement. Hush money is unseemly, but it is legal,” Shugerman wrote.

He continued:

In Monday’s opening argument, the prosecutor Matthew Colangelo still evaded specifics about what was illegal about influencing an election, but then he claimed, “It was election fraud, pure and simple.” None of the relevant state or federal statutes refer to filing violations as fraud. Calling it “election fraud” is a legal and strategic mistake, exaggerating the case and setting up the jury with high expectations that the prosecutors cannot meet.

According to Shugerman, there are “three red flags raising concerns about selective prosecution” in the case, all three of which concern the novel legal theory prosecutors are using against Trump for which there is no precedent.

“Eight years after the alleged crime itself, it is reasonable to ask if this is more about Manhattan politics than New York law,” Shugerman wrote. “This case should serve as a cautionary tale about broader prosecutorial abuses in America.”

He added, “This case is still an embarrassment of prosecutorial ethics and apparent selective prosecution.”

Still, Shugerman said the legal process should play itself out — but predicted Trump may ultimately win.

“If Monday’s opening is a preview of exaggerated allegations, imprecise legal theories, and persistently unaddressed problems, the prosecutors might not win a conviction at all,” he said.

George Washington Law School professor Jonathan Turley holds similar views about the case.

On Monday, Turley said he is left in “utter disbelief” that Bragg chose to prosecute the case, which he described as “an embarrassment.”

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