April 8, 2023


Trump indictment: The odds are in Alvin Bragg's favor (JAMES D. ZIRIN, 04/06/23, The Hill)

The indictment is a bare-bones pleading, parroting the language of the hoary provisions of §175.10 of the New York Penal Law. It's not what those of us in the trade call a "speaking indictment" that gives a narrative of the crime worthy of a detective novel.

Here's how the 34 counts break down: 11 counts for falsifying invoices; 12 counts for falsifying general ledger entries; 11 checks for falsely characterizing the reimbursements to Michael Cohen for the Stormy Daniels payoff as a legal retainer.

It is apparently the shopworn practice in white-collar crime cases in the Manhattan district attorney's office to file a separate document called a "statement of facts" that puts more flesh on the bareboned charges. If the indictment is the still life, the statement of facts is the landscape. This one is riveting. [...]

How did the scheme allegedly work? At a 2015 meeting, National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, Michael Cohen and Trump met and concocted a "catch and kill" plan to prevent any more damaging stories about Trump from surfacing during the presidential campaign.

The result was three instances where they were able to prevent damaging information about Trump from coming to light while he was running for office. The alleged payoff to keep Stormy Daniels quiet, involving $130,000 paid to her through Cohen and a shell company, was expected to be charged. The surprise was the inclusion of the $150,000 payment to another woman, a former Playboy model named Karen McDougal, who was shopping a story about an extra-marital affair she says she had with Trump, and an alleged $30,000 payment to a doorman at Trump Tower with a story, later rejected by Pecker, that Trump had fathered an illegitimate child. That's the scheme. The indictment documents the false statements made to further the scheme, 34 of them.

Trump supporters who had suggested the "catch and kill" scheme was about protecting Melania Trump saw that defense blown apart. Prosecutors say Trump met with Pecker after the election and before the inauguration to thank him for his help with the election. They met again after the election and before the inauguration, where Trump "thanked Pecker for handling the stories of the doorman and Karen McDougal, and invited [the publisher] to the Inauguration."

After Trump became president, he invited Pecker to a White House dinner in the summer of 2017 "to thank him for his help during the campaign." Pecker is cooperating with Bragg's investigation. He was the final witness Bragg brought before the grand jury, and, presumably, we will hear this story in his own voice.

Here's the pièce de la resistance. Trump always claimed that he paid the money not because of the election but to avoid embarrassment to him and his family. But they structured at least one of the deals so they wouldn't have to pay out funds if Trump lost the election. It was never about protecting his family.

Posted by at April 8, 2023 12:31 PM