Friday, during an appearance on FBN’s “Kudlow,” former Attorney General Bill Barr slammed the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s prosecution of former President Donald Trump.
Barr said it had problems on multiple grounds, including abuse of prosecutorial power and misinterpreting statute.
“Now, obviously, we don’t have the indictment, so there’s a little bit of speculation involved. But, based on the news reports, if they’re accurate, this is an abomination,” Barr said. “It’s the epitome of the abuse of prosecutorial power to bring a case that would not be brought against anyone else. They are going after the man, not a crime. And the legal theory, frankly, is pathetically weak. The case is held together by chicken wire and paper clips and rubber bands. It’s a lousy case. It’s — and it’s a shame. It’s a shameful episode in our history, where this local prosecutor is trying to affect the political process by bringing this case.”
“This is politically driven, as you suggested. I think we all know that, or at least conservatives all know that,” Kudlow said. “What is this tattered legal theory? I’m still trying to figure that out.
“Well, according to news reports, the threshold crime is false business records, apparently reporting payments that were made to reimburse Michael Cohen, who had paid off Stormy Daniels, and the characterization of those payments as legal payments,” Barr replied. “And the claim is that that’s false and therefore violated a misdemeanor statute in the first instance against false document. I actually don’t think that’s a valid claim in this case because the statute actually requires that it be done with the intent to defraud. So, if you have false business records and you’re committing insurance fraud or some other kind of fraud, where some value is taken from somebody else, and you falsely get value in your own name, then the false records would be a misdemeanor. But I don’t understand the basis for a fraud claim here. But then they take this misdemeanor, which also has a problem with the statute of limitations, and they try to shoehorn it into a felony by claiming that the reason the document was falsified, the documents were falsified, was to cover up another crime. In this case, they’re assuming that the payments were a campaign finance violation because they were effectively a contribution to the Trump campaign.”
“I can tell you that’s not the law,” he continued. “I don’t think that’s how the Justice Department would view it. It wasn’t brought by the Justice Department during the Trump administration. But even after the Trump administration left, there was no inhibition on the Department of Justice to bring this federal claim if they thought it was valid. And it was never brought. So, aside from that, I think it’s quite clear under the law that a payment — I’m going to call it hush money. I don’t like that term. But payments of hush monies to keep affairs or other things like that secret are not inherently unlawful. The question under the statute is, was it a campaign contribution? I think the law is quite clear. It is not. And, in fact, I think Merrick Garland, when he was a D.C. Circuit judge, wrote an opinion along these lines relating to Senator Craig, Larry Craig.”
“But put that aside,” Barr added. “Under the statute, it would be a personal payment, a payment of a personal expense, and that is not a violation of the statute if it’s the kind of payment that would have been made even apart from the campaign. And I think there’s a compelling argument here that, when you’re dealing with a private company that’s named after its founder, it’s an eponymous company, Trump, of course, there would be payment to protect the reputation of the owner of the corporation. So, I think it’s a weak case altogether. Unfortunately, I think it’s going to accomplish what I think its political purpose, which is to inject chaos into the Republican process. I actually think probably the governing intent here is to help Trump and have all the news focused on this kind of stuff for the next couple of years and turn the Republican primary into a circus.”
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor
Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.