Trump And The Grand Jury Torture Chambers: Upcoming Indictments To “Bragg” About
I previously discussed the “roller coaster” ride of Trump investigations from the Manhattan Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutor Alvin Bragg’s on again-off again-back on again approach undoubtedly frustrates many, most notably Trump. When Bragg announced he was forming a new grand jury to investigate the Stormy Daniels/Karen McDougal payola for sex silence scandal he quickly blew his Truth Social lid. The rant included all the Trump staples for absolutely any investigation of him including: “greatest witch hunt of all time,” and “weaponized Department of Justice.” It should be noted that this local New York prosecutor’s criminal investigation does not involve the Department of Justice.
That criticism was minor compared to what he reserved for Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, who is investigating (among other things) the stolen classified documents seized at Mar-a-Lago matter (or “Boxes Hoax” as Trump calls it). Trump called him an “animal prosecutor” and accused him of torturing witnesses.
Trump put “TORTURE” in all caps, so it must really be bad. Probably this bad:
As discussed below, it appears Alvin Bragg has also installed a torture chamber in the grand jury room in Manhattan. He has also gotten off to a quick run of witnesses that include National Enquirer owner David Pecker, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen (who really is the central witness here) and former Trump Press Secretary Kellyanne Conway. This article will focus on the charges Bragg is likely to bring.
I’ll start with the basic law at issue. It is the Federal Election Campaign Act beginning at 52 U.S.C. § 30101. This statute includes two relevant prohibitions:
- Corporations may not donate to Presidential candidates or their campaigns. Candidates and campaigns may not accept donations from corporations.
- Individuals may donate to Presidential candidates or campaigns, but those limitations are capped at $2,700 per election.
How this law was violated is spelled out in the Statement of Information for Michael Cohen. If you want you can start reading on p. 11. It is not that long. This document became part of Cohen’s plea agreement as he accepted as true the facts laid out in it. As you read that document it is helpful to have a key for the code phrases used to describe individuals and organizations:
Corporation-1 = AMI (America Media Inc), the parent company of the National Enquirer.
Chairman-1 = David Pecker, the CEO of AMI. Longtime friend of Donald Trump.
Woman-1 = Karen McDougal, a Playboy Model who claims to have had a nine month affair with Trump starting in 2006.
Woman-2 = Stormy Daniels, a porn star who claims to have had an affair with Trump in 2006.
Magazine-1 = The National Enquirer.
Editor-1 = Editor in Chief of the National Enquirer.
Individual-1 = President Trump.
In short, the National Enquirer paid for the silence of Karen McDougal and Michael Cohen paid for the silence of Stormy Daniels. Those payments were to benefit Trump’s campaign for President by shielding him from public disclosure of those sex scandals before the election. After the release of Trump’s “pussy grabbing” Access Hollywood tape this was a sensitive issue for the campaign.
Accordingly, the National Enquirer $150,000 payoff to Karen McDougal was an illegal campaign contribution from a corporation. Even if eventually repaid (which apparently it was not) then it would be a loan to the campaign and the definition of campaign contributions includes loans.
Similarly, Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels was a campaign contribution well in excess of the $2,700 statutory limit. In addition, as discussed below the means by which Trump repaid Cohen meant that ultimately a corporation, Trump’s corporation, contributed to the campaign.
THE “LEGAL EXPENSES” MONEY LAUNDERING TO COMPENSATE COHEN
First, Cohen secured the money to repay Daniels from a home equity line of credit. When Cohen applied for that HELOC he committed bank fraud by misrepresenting his finances and the purpose for the HELOC. Banks generally don’t make loans whose intended purposes include paying off porn stars to protect a Presidential campaign.
Cohen then contracted with the Trump Organization under a supposed retainer agreement whereby the corporation would pay him $35,000 a month for a year. That totaled $420,000 for Cohen, a nifty profit for risk taking that would send him to prison.
Cohen sent monthly invoices to The Trump Organization that he represented as bills for the “retainer agreement.” In the words of Statement of Information: “there was no such retainer agreement, and the monthly invoices Cohen submitted were not in connection with any legal services.” This was just compensation to Cohen for his paying for the porn star’s silence.
To complete the scam, the Trump Corporation “accounted for these payments as legal expenses” on their corporate books. The Statement of Information, which is intended only to itemize Cohen’s misconduct, does not state whether the corporation then treated those “legal expenses” as such for tax purposes. Obviously hush money to a porn star does not qualify as a legitimate business expense for tax purposes.
For his part in all this (and some other things) Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison. The sentence has been completed. He is enthusiastically cooperating and being extensively interviewed by Bragg’s team and grand jury.
Cohen participated in a fraudulent scheme, and deserved his time. However, it is an injustice that he served time in prison while his coconspirator, who was the only person who benefited from the scam, was not even charged. Perhaps that injustice will soon be rectified.
TRUMP GETTING NERVOUS?
Trump certainly seems to think Bragg intends to do something with this new grand jury. Trump told CPAC this weekend that he intends to continuing running for President even if indicted. He recently turned his Truth Social hate back to Manhattan Prosecutor Alvin Bragg. This time he accuses Bragg (who is black) of being racist and of “tormenting” a potential witness.
The “75 year old employee” Trump is referring to is Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. Bragg’s office secured a conviction by plea agreement against him, and a conviction by jury trial of the Trump Organization, for a ten year tax fraud scheme. Weisselberg was sentenced to five months and is currently residing in the prison known as “Riker’s Island.”
During the prior investigation Bragg and his predecessor attempted, mostly unsuccessfully, to flip Weisselberg. As CFO Weisselberg was involved in the repayment money laundering to Cohen. Bragg is potentially considering charging him for that or using such potential charges as leverage to get Weisselberg to finally fully cooperate. Perhaps a few months in prison have given Weisselberg a new appreciation for freedom and a new understanding how protecting his boss isn’t worth more jail.
For the record, this is a list of the known criminal investigations of Trump that could indict him at any time.
- Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg: Investigating Trump for potential election financing and tax fraud crimes related to hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.
- Fulton County Georgia Prosecutor Fani Willis: Investigating Trump, and many others, for crimes aimed at interfering with the election results in Georgia. The trigger for the investigation was Trump’s call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger threatening to criminally prosecute him unless he “found” Trump the exact number of votes he needed to win. However, the investigation appears much broader than that. It is believed that a special grand jury in early January recommended numerous indictments, to include of Trump.
- Westchester New York District Attorney’s Office of Mimi E. Rocah: Investigating whether the Trump Organization lied about the value of its properties to reduce tax liability.
- Special Prosecutor Jack Smith: Investigating Trump’s efforts, along with others, to interfere in the electoral college count by putting forth fake slates of electors, fraudulently convincing state legislatures to endorse fake electors, and attempts to convince Mike Pence to unilaterally not count electors from some states Biden won. A Federal judge has already determined that it is likely that Trump and John Eastman committed major felonies related to these matters.
- Special Prosecutor Jack Smith: Investigating Trump’s theft, and refusal to return under grand jury subpoena, classified documents seized by probable cause search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago. In addition, potential obstruction of justice by Trump in lying about having such records and in attempting to conceal them from investigators.
That’s an awful lot of criminal charge bullets to dodge.