Alvin Bragg campaigned to be tough on Trump, now his historic indictment gets tested in court

From campaign statements to donations tied to liberal mega-donor George Soros, prosecutor's past likely to be scrutinized in courts of law and public opinion.

Published: April 3, 2023 11:29pm

In his bid to be Manhattan's top prosecutor, Alvin Bragg campaigned in the court of public opinion on a boast he was tough on Donald Trump, and he fueled his campaign with support from a political action committee backed by liberal mega-donor George Soros. 

Now Bragg's historic legal strike gets its first test in the court of law Tuesday, when Trump appears for an arraignment on a grand jury indictment charging America's 45th president with alleged crimes related to nondisclosure payments to a porn actress nearly seven years ago during the thick of the 2016 election.

Legal experts expect Bragg's past to be prologue, as his every statement on the campaign trail, every contact in the political world and every legal theory justifying charging the first ever president with a crime becomes fair game in a relentless assault by Trump's legal team.

"This is a case where the DA and the Attorney General both ran on the promise to get Trump," famed Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told Just the News. "...Then they get elected, they rummage through the statute books, and they can't find a statute to indict him as hard as they try. So they make up two statutes: a misdemeanor statute that's totally inapplicable, and then the felony statute that's inapplicable. And they say one plus one equals 11. But it's zero plus zero equals zero."

"Any first year law student could win this case, if the guy's name wasn't Trump, and it wasn't New York. It's the easiest case in the world to win," he added. "But it's New York, and it's Trump,"

As part of Tuesday's arraignment, the grand jury's indictment will be unsealed and the actual charges will finally be unveiled. Trump's lawyers were bracing for as many as 30-plus counts related to a 2016 payment the former president's then-personal attorney, Michael Cohen, made to porn star Stormy Daniels in fall 2016.

Trump later paid Cohen and recorded the expense as legal fees. Legal experts have suggested that the case likely involves the notion that the recorded expense constitutes a falsification of business records designed to conceal a campaign finance violation. Such scholars have dismissed the case as baseless while Republicans have almost uniformly condemned it as a political prosecution.

The former president announced a major addition Monday to his legal team, hiring former federal prosecutor Todd Blanche, who had represented former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort during the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation. His team also filed a motion Monday asking the court to ban video and photo coverage of the arraignment.

"America was not supposed to be this way!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform Monday, suggesting he can't get a fair trial in Manhattan where 87% of voters cast ballots against him in 2020.

"The Corrupt D.A. has no case," he added. "What he does have is a venue where it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to get a Fair Trial (it must be changed!)"

Trump himself has derided Bragg as being "handpicked and funded by George Soros." The billionaire's various societies and organizations have long supported prosecutors who pursue progressive policies such as low or no cash bail and lessening criminal sentences over equity concerns.

Soros, a Hungarian-American businessman, is a prolific donor to left-wing social and political causes. His frequent support for progressive institutions has led many conservatives to view him negatively. The 92-year-old's Jewish heritage also caused his defenders to label criticism of the billionaire as anti-Semitic.

In a fact-check of Trump's statement, The Washington Post highlighted that Soros never directly contributed to Bragg's campaign but did identify Bragg as "the type of prosecutor favored by Soros." It further noted that Soros's Democracy PAC did not give money to Bragg, though Soros's son and daughter-in-law each gave more than $10,000.

Indirectly, however, Soros-backed organizations did throw their support behind Bragg, who won election in late 2021. On May 8 of that year, Color of Change PAC, backed Bragg's campaign and vowed to spend "over one million dollars" on his behalf. Soros, on May 14, gave $1 million to Color of Change.

The Hungarian-American billionaire was far and away the PAC's largest contributor, according to the Washington Free Beacon. Soros has directly given $1,450,000 to Color of Change while his Democracy PAC gave the group $2.5 million in 2020. Color of Change also received $2,025,133 from Win Justice in the year after Soros gave $5 million personally to that group in 2018. Democracy PAC gave Win Justice $5 million in 2020.

Soros and Bragg have never met in person nor spoken via other methods, a spokesperson for the billionaire told the New York Times. The outlet also noted that Color of Change ultimately spent roughly $500,000 on Bragg, falling short of its goal. 

Whether Soros's indirect financial assistance clinched the race for Bragg or not, the Manhattan district attorney has certainly pursued policies that closely align with those of the Hungarian-American mega-donor. Bragg has history of downgrading felony charges, doing so in 52% of felony cases during his first year in office. He further scored a felony conviction rate of 51%. He issued a "Day One" memo during his first week in office in which he announced a list of crimes for which he would not pursue charges, though he ultimately reversed some aspects of that policy.

The financial ties between Bragg and a left-wing megadonor weigh heavily in the minds of conservative critics, who view the Trump case as a political prosecution. But Bragg's own statements also play into the picture.

During the campaign, the prospect of charges being brought against Trump was a high-profile issue for prospective candidates.

Bragg previously led a prosecution against the Donald J. Trump Foundation, asserting Trump improperly used charitable funds to aid his 2016 campaign, promote his business, and pay legal settlements, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Trump Organization called the case politically motivated, though Trump himself admitted to improperly spending the money and was ordered to pay $2 million to various charities in the settlement.

"I certainly have more experience with [Trump] than most people in the world," Bragg said while on campaign.

During a debate, he went even further.

“I have investigated Trump and his children and held them accountable for their misconduct with the Trump Foundation,” he said. “I know how to follow the facts and hold people in power accountable.”

Upon taking office, Bragg pursued an unrelated investigation into the Trump Organization that alleged the company's senior executives had engaged in a years-long scheme to avoid paying taxes on much of their income. He scored a guilty verdict in December 2022 and the organization was later fined $1.6 million. The former president himself did not face charges in that case.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

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