Trump hush money trial to shape prosecutor Alvin Bragg’s legacy


By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Alvin Bragg says he decided to become a lawyer after guns were pulled on him six times while growing up in New York – three of those times by police. 

A quarter-century after graduating from Harvard Law School, the Manhattan district attorney’s legacy is set to be defined by the looming verdict in one of the most consequential cases in American history: the criminal trial of former President Donald Trump over hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. 

The trial, which is winding down after more than a month, is likely the only one that the Republican presidential candidate challenging Democratic incumbent Joe Biden will face before the Nov. 5 election. Prosecutors finished calling witnesses on Monday and the defense rested its case on Tuesday, paving the way for closing arguments and jury deliberations next week.

Since Bragg unveiled the first of four indictments against Trump last year, he has been a frequent target of Trump’s vitriolic social media posts.

A gag order imposed by Justice Juan Merchan to restrict Trump’s public statements about jurors, witnesses and individual prosecutors does not apply to Bragg, an elected official. 

“The Crooked New York City D.A., Alvin Bragg, who is allowing violent crime to run rampant on the sidewalks of New York, has absolutely NO CASE AGAINST ME,” Trump posted on May 4 on his Truth Social platform. “ELECTION INTERFERENCE!!!”

Bragg’s office says overall crime in Manhattan is down 8% over the past two years, with murders and shootings falling 29% and 46%, respectively.

The former president stands accused of covering up a reimbursement to former lawyer Michael Cohen, who paid Daniels $130,000 before the 2016 election for her silence about a sexual liaison she says she had with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

Bragg, who took office in January 2022, has said falsification-of-business records cases are the “bread and butter” of his office’s white-collar work.

“This is the business capital of the world,” Bragg told reporters after the indictment was unsealed on April 4, 2023. “The basis for business integrity and a well-functioning business marketplace is true and accurate recordkeeping.” 

Bragg has occasionally attended the trial, sitting in the courtroom audience in a spot reserved for his office’s staff.


The trial is not the first time Bragg, 50, has taken on Trump in court. 

After handling fraud and money laundering cases as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, he joined the New York state attorney general’s office. There, he oversaw a 2018 lawsuit that forced Trump’s namesake foundation to dissolve.

“I’ve done this type of work under this type of scrutiny,” Bragg said during his 2021 campaign for district attorney, referring to the Trump Foundation case.

In late 2022 he won a conviction of the Trump Organization on charges of orchestrating a 15-year tax fraud, which were brought by his predecessor, Cyrus Vance. Trump personally was not charged in the case.

Bragg also inherited Vance’s probe into whether Trump had misrepresented the values of his real estate properties. But Bragg declined to bring charges in that case, prompting the prosecutor leading that case, Mark Pomerantz, to resign in 2022. Bragg has said the case was not ready. 

Pomerantz’s resignation came as Bragg, Manhattan’s first Black district attorney, was fending off criticism from Republicans and some Democrats for a plan to refrain from prosecuting some minor offenses and to seek reduced sentences for some crimes. 

Bragg, who during his campaign regularly discussed his experiences getting guns pulled on him while growing up in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood, said “over-incarceration” contributed to racial disparities and had not improved public safety. He later backtracked on some reforms.

Bragg has also faced dissent from Trump’s critics over the hush money case. Many say the case is not as serious as the other three criminal cases Trump faces in Washington, Florida and Georgia.

Bragg has responded by emphasizing that the New York case is about the 2016 election. Cohen in 2018 pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for the Daniels payment.

“The core is not money for sex,” Bragg said in a December radio interview with WNYC. “It’s about conspiring to corrupt a presidential election.” 

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Jonathan Oatis)

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