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In case against Trump, Manhattan DA Bragg's hocus-pocus case exposed on first day

Hocus-pocus is a meaningless distraction or illusion that is intended to fool. That neatly summarizes District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case against Donald Trump. The DA hopes to snooker a Manhattan jury into convicting the former president with a bag of legal tricks.

In most courtrooms, the chicanery would never work. But in this Trump-hating venue the defendant’s jury of purported peers are likely predisposed to accept magic for magic’s sake. They may want to believe there’s no white rabbit behind Bragg’s back, despite the pink ears peaking around his coat. 

The first sleight of hand happened the moment the lead prosecutor addressed jurors during opening statements on Monday. Assistant DA Matthew Colangelo (formerly Joe Biden’s number three official at the Justice Department) told the panel, “This case is about a criminal conspiracy.”  Really?

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Why, then, is Trump not charged with that? Even though Colangelo repeatedly accused the defendant of participating in a criminal conspiracy, the word “conspiracy” can be found nowhere in Bragg’s indictment.  It’s not there because there was no criminal conspiracy. But that didn’t stop the prosecutor from deceiving the jury by arguing about an uncharged crime. Like a skilled magician, he hopes his pretense will fool them.  

Not content with one canard, Colangelo slipped another one from his sleeve.  More than once, he accused Trump of “election fraud,” conveniently ignoring the fact that the Federal Election Commission examined Trump’s payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and determined there was no fraud because the money conferred did not qualify as a campaign donation.  Federal prosecutors who investigated reached the same conclusion.  So did Bragg’s predecessor.  There was no crime.

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Undeterred, Colangelo used pejorative terms to portray the Daniels cash as a nefarious scheme without bothering to mention that such non-disclosure agreements are perfectly legal and routine. Also, lawful and quite common was the alleged “catch and kill” device used by the tabloid, National Enquirer.  On Trump’s behalf, it bought the rights to Daniels’ story about her supposed relationship with him but declined to publish it.  Contractually, it had every right to do that. 

None of this stopped the prosecutor from informing the jury that all of this constitutes “an illegal conspiracy to undermine a presidential election.”  Like most illusions, it seems plausible on the surface.  But wait.  Let’s check the indictment again.  Every single one of the 34 charges against Trump took place in 2017.  You’ll note that this is after the 2016 election.  It’s quite the magic trick to have committed crimes before they allegedly occurred.  

Colangelo must be new to politics or a neophyte reader of history.  He’s under the mistaken impression that campaigns never try to bury negative stories or promote positive ones.  In truth, it’s been going on for more than two centuries. This prompted the defense in its opening statement to warn the jury, “I have a spoiler alert, there is nothing wrong with trying to influence an election; it’s called democracy.”  Trump attorney Todd Blanche then added, “They put something sinister on it.”

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Blanche offered a full-throated defense of his famous client when he declared to the jury, “President Trump is innocent.”  He described how Trump had nothing to do with the bookkeeping or the 34 invoices reflecting the same number of charged counts.  He assigned his lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen, to resolve the demands for money, which he did.  Cohen booked the cost as legal services and expenses, which they were.  

Why did Trump capitulate to what smacks of blackmail or extortion?  Blanche offered this explanation: “Stormy was an attempt to try to embarrass Trump with all sorts of allegations damaging to him and damaging to his family. Trump fought back to protect his family, reputation, and brand…and that is not a crime.”  Indeed, it is not. 

The defense contends that no crimes were committed at all, that Trump was targeted because he’s running for president, and that unscrupulous prosecutors motivated by politics built their case on clever deceptions, an abuse of the law, and liars who cannot be trusted.  While much of this should be self-evident, Bragg is committed to employing a hocus-pocus strategy to fool the jury.  

Through his minion, Colangelo, the lefty DA accuses Trump of “conspiring to influence the 2016 presidential election” without recognizing the obvious hypocrisy. It is Bragg, himself, who is guilty of election interference in 2024 by bringing a legally absurd case designed to take Trump off the campaign trail while his opponent, Joe Biden, freely blankets key states in advance of the November balloting.  

It’s a neat trick called “lawfare” —weaponizing the law to persecute a political enemy under the guise of a legitimate prosecution.  It doesn’t matter that any conviction will surely be overturned on appeal.  By then, the damage will be done.  

For now, we are left to watch and wait, wondering whether Manhattan jurors will fall for the legal illusions and distractions conjured up by an unprincipled trickster called Alvin Bragg. 

GREGG JARRETT

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