Trump Witness Merchan Silenced Speaks Out: Brad Smith Explains What He Would Have Told Jury

Juan Merchan
Jane Rosenberg via AP, Pool

Brad Smith, the Trump witness who was essentially silenced by Judge Juan Merchan in former President Donald Trump’s business records trial, revealed what he would have told the jury had he been able to testify, noting that he would have tried to “lay out some of the factual work of the law” and how it works in “practice.”

Speaking to Byron York of Washington Examiner, Smith — who was barred by Merchan from testifying about campaign finance laws, which are at the crux of the business records trial — explained that he would not have delved into specifics, but would have tried to break down campaign finance law, as it is extremely complicated.

According to York, Smith planned to “lay out the ways the law has been interpreted in ways that might not be obvious”:

As an example, Smith cited the phrase “for the purpose of influencing an election,” which has been heard during much analysis of the trial. “You read the law and it says that anything intended for the purpose of influencing an election is a contribution or an expenditure,” Smith explained. “But that’s not in fact the entirety of the law. There is the obscure, and separate from the definitional part, idea of personal use, which is a separate part of the law that says you can’t divert campaign funds to personal use. That has a number of specific prohibitions, like you can’t buy a country club membership, you can’t normally pay yourself a salary or living expenses, you can’t go on vacation — all these kinds of things. And then it includes a broader, general prohibition that says you can’t divert [campaign funds] to any obligation that would exist even if you were not running for office.”

What is the point of that? “We would have liked to flag that exception for the jury and talk a little bit about what it means,” Smith said. “And also, we would have talked about ‘for the purpose of influencing an election’ is not a subjective test, like ‘What was my intention?’ — it’s an objective test. So hiring campaign staff is for the purpose of influencing an election. Renting space for your campaign office, buying ads, maybe doing polling, printing up bumper stickers, travel to campaign rallies, renting venues for campaign rallies — all of those things exist only because you are running for office. But under the personal use rules, a lot of things candidates do running for office are not considered campaign expenditures, things like paying for a weight loss program or a gym membership, nicer clothes, teeth whitening, or all that sort of thing. It may be true that you do those things in part to help yourself get elected — you might not do them otherwise — but they are not obligations that exist simply because you are running for office. Lots of people do those things.”

Further, Smith revealed that he personally believes that “paying hush money, or paying for a nondisclosure agreement, does not constitute a campaign expense,” using an example of a businessperson running for office who seeks to settle lawsuits against his businesses, because the press could blow them out of proportion.

Smith explained further:

“And the company lawyers say, ‘No, these are great cases we should win. We shouldn’t settle them.’ He says, ‘I don’t care. I’m running for office. I don’t want press stories on it. I want you to settle them quietly.’ Well, he cannot use campaign funds to pay that settlement, even though he is clearly doing it for the purpose of influencing his campaign.”

He added that it is his belief that “this clearly would not have been a campaign expenditure, never had to be reported, and therefore was not misreported.

“Smith said he had intended to avoid specifics and simply “lay out some of the factual work of the law” and how that works in practice.

On Tuesday, Trump’s defense rested in the business records trial after finishing questioning Michael Cohen’s former adviser, Robert Costello. Closing arguments are set for Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

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Margo Martin via Storyful

Donald Trump Jr. spoke to the press on Tuesday, blasting the “disastrous precedent” set for the legal system with these various cases of lawfare against his father.

“There’s no crime. The only problem is the witnesses who are experts in these things aren’t allowed to actually testify to that, because you have a rigged system,” Don Jr. explained.

“If it can happen to Donald Trump … with a platform, hundreds of millions of followers, the ability to fight — they will do it to anyone, and they have weaponized this system against their political enemies, and they’ve started to go down a very dangerous and a very slippery slope. This insanity cannot stand,” the eldest Trump son added.


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