Trump Attorneys Tell Him to Prepare to Lose to Alvin Bragg
Donald Trump is about to be a loser, several of his attorneys say.
Since last month, according to two sources familiar with the matter, some of Trump’s lawyers have told him that if he is criminally charged in New York City, he should be prepared to lose. There’s a widespread belief in Trumplandia — including within the ex-president’s legal orbit — that it would be difficult for the former president to get an impartial jury in the Democratic stronghold of Manhattan. Instead, these Trump attorneys are telling him his best chance is to win on appeal.
“The [former] president is more confident in his chances [than others are], but when some of us have brought this [idea of counting on an appeal] up to him … it seemed like he believed we had a good point,” one of the sources says.
A Trump spokesperson and a Trump attorney did not immediately provide comment for this story.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg empaneled a grand jury to investigate whether the former president broke New York state business records laws by reimbursing his former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, for a hush money payment to cover up an alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels.
The Trump grand jury had been scheduled to meet again on Wednesday to hear from an unnamed witness, but the district attorney’s office abruptly canceled the meeting, according to CNN, leaving the timing of a potential indictment uncertain. (Days ago, Trump claimed on his social media network that he expected to be arrested on Tuesday, March 21.)
But if the case indeed goes to trial, Trump’s allies have already telegraphed that their plans to assail the prosecution as politically motivated, and even to allege that the city of New York itself is out to put the screws to Trump. The former president is also prone to hurling wild allegations at Bragg, such as bizarrely calling the DA “racist” for investigating him.
Prosecutors with experience in New York don’t find the argument persuasive.
“I don’t see a change of venue motion having success in this case,” says Jennifer Beidel, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan who’s now a partner at Saul Ewing LLP. “A lot of high-profile cases — political cases, terrorism cases, massive fraud cases — occurred in New York. Bernie Madoff stayed in New York. One would think that having committed that massive fraud in New York, if anything said that wasn’t the right jurisdiction for you, that would be it.”
New York City has already successfully prosecuted both Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer, and two Trump companies, the Trump Payroll Corporation and Trump Corporation, on tax charges last year.
The strategizing in the New York grand jury investigation comes as Trump’s legal team has already moved to throw out the report from a separate grand jury investigation into potential election interference by Trump in Georgia. Trump’s attorneys filed a motion to quash a grand jury report because the jury foreperson allegedly “failed to protect the most basic procedural and substantive constitutional rights of all individuals discussed by this investigative body” by “engag[ing] in a media tour” where she discussed the case.
In Manhattan, Team Trump is looking at claiming victimhood as well.
“The former president deserves a jury that is unaffected by politics, and as a case of first impression, they need to make sure he has every ability to defend himself and that those participating in the process have clean hands. Skilled prosecutors can achieve this, but it’s a real challenge, given social media, news reporting, and because of how deeply politically charged this situation is,” says Michael Wildes, a former federal prosecutor and current Democratic mayor of Englewood, New Jersey. In the past, Wildes has worked for Trump, and continues to represent Melania Trump and her family on immigration matters. “That is not going to be easy, but it has to be achieved, otherwise the process will be tainted and appeals will be had,” he continues.
However, across the wide network of former Trump officials, there’s a dim view of his chances, as many believe a jury drawn from heavily Democratic Manhattan would easily vote to convict the former president. “It might be very difficult for Donald Trump to get a fair hearing in the county of Manhattan given it’s so overwhelmingly blue and anti-Trump,” lawyer and former Trump presidential transition team member Mark Smith said during a NewsNation appearance Tuesday. “It would be difficult. I’m not saying it would be impossible.”
The intense media scrutiny on the Trump case and his global notoriety also make it unlikely that other venues would make jury selection any easier, says Beidel. “Where can he go that’s not media-saturated? Where is the place where no one knows about this case or investigation at this point?”
—with additional reporting by Victoria Bekiempis