New York Convicts Trump of Falsifying Business Records, Critics Denounce Case as Political

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's case against Donald Trump for falsifying business records has drawn intense scrutiny since it was filed almost exactly a year ago. The case against the former president, who is reportedly mulling another White House run in 2024, was always predictable. Given Trump's long history of questionable business practices, Bragg's office likely could have pursued many other legal avenues against the former president. And given Trump's inflammatory and abusive language about prosecutors and the legal system, launching an investigation against him was always likely, too. Still, Bragg's case against Trump, for falsifying business records to conceal a violation of federal campaign finance law, has faced consistent and fervent criticism. Some of that criticism is merited, while some is not.

Here's a rundown of the key arguments for and against the prosecution's case:

  1. Trump Falsified Business Records, But With What Intent? The heart of the case against Trump rests on allegations that he falsified business records with the intent to defraud. Under New York state law, it is a crime to falsify records with such an intent. And it is a felony to do so in order to conceal another crime. Prosecution allegations that Trump paid hush money to an adult film actress, Stormy Daniels, ahead of the 2016 election, and then falsified business records to hide this payment, form the backbone of the case. Daniels claimed she had information that could have hurt Trump's election chances. However, there is no evidence that Trump falsified records to trick anyone out of money or property.
  2. Shaky Legal Theory, But Not Irrelevant The claim that Trump falsified records to conceal a violation of federal campaign finance law is dubious. It's not clear that Trump even knew he was violating campaign finance laws, and there is no evidence that he knew he was breaking the law when he falsified records. That's because the Supreme Court has narrowly defined the "intent to defraud" under New York law. The case also largely rests on an obscure and arguably inapplicable law that no judge has ever ruled on before. Finally, the prosecution's claim that Trump conspired to promote his own election through "unlawful means" is speculative. Trump may have violated tax laws and other business statutes, but those crimes are not spelled out in the indictment.
  3. Jury Convicts Trump Despite Weak Case Because of Incompetent Defense The biggest problem for Trump may have been his defense team's total failure to mount a reasonable defense. Instead of refuting the evidence put forward by the prosecution, Trump's lawyers chose to contest obviously true claims that had no bearing on the former president's guilt or innocence. As a result, an unbiased jury could easily have arrived at a guilty verdict. NB: This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of MSNBC or NBC News.

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