‘Overtly political’ Trump trial risks eroding Americans’ faith in judicial system, experts say

As a Manhattan courtroom braces for the unprecedented trial of former President Donald Trump, legal minds examine how the case – considered by some experts to be legally weak and politically motivated – could erode trust in America’s justice system. The 45th president and presumptive GOP nominee for the 2024 presidential election was charged by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree.The charges are related to alleged hush money payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to adult actress Stormy Daniels to conceal their alleged extramarital affair.But experts tell Fox News Digital that the “overtly political” nature and hollow legal grounds of the case could erode “respect and trust” in the rule of law that could take “a very long time” to restore. TRUMP SAYS BIDEN ‘SHOULD BE IN JAIL’ AND ‘ON TRIAL,’ WHILE BLASTING NY CASE: ‘THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING'”In my view, the prosecution that is currently underway against former President Trump in New York City is the most overtly political of the four criminal cases pending against him,” John Malcolm, former Assistant U.S. Attorney in Georgia, told Fox News Digital.He noted that Bragg had run for office touting the number of times he had sued Trump and vowing to go after him if he was elected as DA.Malcolm said Bragg had taken a relatively minor record-keeping charge that usually results in a civil fine or, at most, a misdemeanor – or which the statute of limitations ran a long time ago – and “ginned up” a 34-count felony indictment, claiming that the alleged false business entries had been intended to cover up the existence of another crime. “In this case, that alleged crime is a federal campaign finance violation, even though neither the Federal Election Commission nor the Department of Justice chose to charge Trump with violating federal campaign finance laws,” Malcolm said. “Moreover, these payments came from Trump himself, and there is no question that even if they were related to his campaign – which Trump vehemently denies – he would have been entitled to contribute as much money as he wanted to his own campaign,” said Malcolm. TRUMP HUSH MONEY TRIAL: MEET THE JURORS WHO WILL HEAR BRAGG’S CASE AGAINST THE 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATEMalcolm added that it is “ironic that in this case, a prosecutor who has developed a well-deserved reputation for going easy on actual felons, even violent ones, by allowing them to plead to misdemeanors is taking what should, at most, be a misdemeanor violation, and has ramped them up into highly questionable felony charges.”John Shu, a constitutional law expert who served in both Bush administrations, agreed with that sentiment, telling Fox News Digital that the prosecution “is particularly egregious because he…never would have twisted the law in this way in order to bring a similar case against a Democrat former president, and also because Bragg repeatedly either has refused to prosecute violent criminals or retail store thieves who hurt innocent New Yorkers or allowed them to plead out to minor charges.””The many criminal cases against former president Trump all feature prosecutors who have stretched and twisted the law in order to ‘get Trump’ and harm his election chances,” Shu noted, adding that whenever Trump is in the courtroom or preparing for trial, he can’t be out on the road campaigning, fundraising or building his campaign field offices.”Not to mention the incredible mental and physical stress of being on trial for one’s liberty,” he added. When asked to comment, Bragg’s office pointed to legal filings in the case that indicate his office has charged “defendants with first-degree falsifying business records at an average rate of just under once a week for the last decade,” listing five such cases brought between 2007 and 2019.The filing also notes that Bragg’s office “entered into ten deferred prosecution agreements with nine financial institutions between 2009 and 2019 — resulting in combined forfeiture and penalty amounts of nearly $3.2 billion — where the Office determined that it could institute criminal prosecutions against each financial institution for first-degree falsifying business records based on the intent to commit or conceal a federal crime.”TRUMP JUROR PREVIOUSLY ARRESTED FOR RIPPING DOWN RIGHT-LEANING POLITICAL ADS DISMISSED FROM TRIALSyracuse University law professor Gregory Germain wrote in an analysis of Trump’s hush money case that it is “an important test for our legal system.”  Bragg, he said, “was under intense political pressure to bring these charges, even after his predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr., decided not to do so.” “Trump is very unpopular in Manhattan, and has acted boorishly and foolishly in verbally attacking parties, judges, court clerks and their families. But the law must be applied fairly and evenly to all parties, even those who are locally unpopular, and it is the District Attorney’s responsibility to assure equal treatment under the law,” said Germain. Germain told Fox News Digital that when then-President Gerald Ford chose to pardon Richard Nixon for the Watergate scandal, he did so in an effort “to put aside vindictiveness and allow the political system to heal from what was a very difficult moment in its history.””The idea of bringing prosecutions against former politicians raises very uncomfortable issues for the legal system,” he added.”A really good prosecutor has to be very careful to make sure that they have an extremely strong case before bringing a charge against the former president that is going to appear to be political,” he said. “This criminal prosecution just reeks of political motivations. And that’s a real problem for the legal system.”Germain noted in his analysis that Bragg sits in the chair once occupied by one of his legal heroes, Robert Morgenthau, who “refused to use his office for political purposes, and had the courage to admit when his office made mistakes.””Bragg has a lot to live up to. This old case, with all of its legal difficulties, should not have been brought,” Germain said. Shu referenced a comment by late Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who in 1940 warned of biased prosecutors who “will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted.” He further warned that, “with the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone.”  “Justice Jackson’s warning is even more applicable today than it was in 1940,” Shu said. Malcolm, currently a vice president at the Heritage Foundation, said that “respect for the rule of law and trust in those who enforce our criminal laws is of vital importance to our society if we wish to maintain, protect, and safeguard the democratic process and an orderly civil society.””I fear it will take a very long time before that respect and trust are restored,” he said. 
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