Former Attorney General Bill Barr called Democrat District Attorney of New York Alvin Bragg’s indictment of former President Donald Trump on Thursday an “abomination.”
“Based on the news reports if they’re accurate, this is an abomination,” Barr said Friday on Fox Business. “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.”
He added, “The case is held together [by] paper clips and rubber bands. It’s a lousy case, 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.”
While the charges have not yet been made public, Bragg is expected to argue that Trump classifying a reimbursement in October 2016 to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen for “hush money” to porn actress Stormy Daniels as legal expenses was a state crime of falsifying business records, which would be at most a misdemeanor. Bragg is then expected to seek to upgrade that to a felony by arguing it was done specifically to hide another crime, which will likely argue is the federal campaign finance crime of not reporting the payment as a campaign expense.
Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, recently argued on NBC News that the payment was not a campaign expense, and Trump is free to classify his business expenses however he wants. He also pointed out that the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) has not charged Trump with any violation, nor have federal prosecutors.
Barr also argued that the falsifying business records claim is not a valid one:
[T]he statute actually requires that it be done with the intent to defraud. So if you have false business records, you know, 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.
Barr also noted that there’s a problem with the misdemeanor charge, which has a statute of limitations of five years, and with trying to upgrade it to a felony. He said:
Then they take this misdemeanor, which also has a problem with the statute of limitations. And they tried to shoehorn it into a into a felony by claiming that the reason the the documents were falsified was to cover up another crime. In this case, they’re assuming that the payments were campaign finance violation because they were effectively a contribution to the Trump campaign. I can tell you that’s not the law. 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 payment — I’m going to call it hush money — I don’t like that term, but payments of hush monies to keep, you know, affairs or other things like that secret are not inherently unlawful,” he said.
“The question under the statute is was it a campaign contribution? I think the law is quite clear. It is not,” he added.
Barr also called the indictment a “fateful step.”
“This is the epitome of the abuse of the prosecutorial power to preempt political decisions and sow discord in the political process. And I think it’s going you know, we’re going to rue the day we crossed this Rubicon. There’ll be more and more of this and you know, just doesn’t end well. It doesn’t end well,” he said.
“It makes us look like a banana republic. And it should,” said Barr, before noting, “Now this is New York State and New York State has been acting like a banana republic. They had that civil lawsuit against the Trump and his children. That civil lawsuit brought by the state attorney general that was a political hit job as well. This ratchets that up because it’s a criminal case. And, you know, these cases together to me, mean the breakdown of the rule of law in New York State.”
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