June 14, 2024

FEC commissioner believes Bragg 'usurped jurisdiction' in Trump's felony prosecution

Federal Election Commissioner Tray Trainor believes District Attorney Alvin Bragg improperly used federal election law to prosecute former President Donald Trump, the Washington Examiner reported. Trainor said this during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the case Thursday.

Bragg convicted Trump on 34 counts of falsifying business records. They are first-degree felonies only if they are committed to hide an underlying crime, which Bragg claimed was Trump's attempt to overturn election results.

Trainor, a Trump appointee who previously served as FEC chairman, believes that Bragg was not in his rights to use federal law to justify the felonies in his state.  "Bragg has effectively usurped the jurisdiction that this Congress has explicitly reserved for federal authorities," Trainor said at the hearing.

"This overreach sets a troubling precedent for politicization of legal proceedings at the state level," he added. If the underlying crime is not within the jurisdiction of the court, then Bragg's case won't stand up to scrutiny.

A House of Cards

Bragg's case against Trump appears to be a house of cards. Instructions to the jury gave them the option of choosing from one of three underlying infractions Trump committed to influence an election "by unlawful means."

Two of the charges included falsified records related to hush money payments to former porn star Stormy Daniels. A third was a violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act with that payment.

In 2016, Daniels was paid $130,000, which she claimed was to keep quiet about an affair with Trump, which he denies. Trump's attorney at the time, Michael Cohen, paid her using his personal funds.

The crux of Bragg's argument involves supposed reimbursements the Trump Organization made in 2017 to Cohen. The company recorded the payments as legal expenses, while Bragg maintains that it was a campaign donation that exceeds legal limits under New York election law.

Bragg told the jury to pick which underlying charge they believed justified the felony. They didn't have to agree on which of the three, nor did they have to disclose which they chose, meaning there's no way to know how they arrived at the unanimous guilty verdict and whether it was indeed the FECA violation.

Federal Prosecutors Already Turned It Down

Beyond Bragg's potentially improper use of federal law, Trainor also said that the Department of Justice had already "vigorously" investigated the situation and found no evidence to prosecute. Moreover, the FEC found that the statute of limitations had already run out on the payment even if the accusations were true.

"This revelation underscores the problematic nature of Bragg’s prosecution and his intrusion upon federal jurisdiction," Trainor pointed out. Other witnesses to the committee agreed with Trainor, including attorney Elizabeth Price Foley, who believes this may be grounds for overturning the conviction.

"The trial was an embarrassment to a country long envied for its commitment to due process. Given the obvious constitutional defects, the New York appellate courts presumably will reverse Mr. Trump’s verdict, eventually," Foley told the committee.

"The prosecutors and judge responsible for these due process violations, however, have irreparably harmed a leading presidential candidate, which likely cannot be remedied via the normal appellate process prior to the election. This sad reality only fuels suspicion that this prosecution wasn’t about enforcing the law but election interference," Foley added.

Bragg's prosecution of Trump was historic for many reasons. However, it's quite possible that Bragg will be most remembered for the way he ran roughshod over the boundaries duly placed on him by the law.

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