Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

What Does Alvin Bragg Have to Prove?

Unless one of Donald Trump's Hail Mary plays works, his first criminal trial will begin on Monday. It's more complicated than some of the other cases, more difficult to understand, and probably harder to prove, but it's first, so let's take a look.

First, here are the basic facts. In 2006, Trump had a short affair with Stormy Daniels. He didn't want her to blab to the media about it being the worst 90 seconds of her life, so in 2016 he asked his then-fixer, Michael Cohen, to pay her $130,000 in return for her silence. He then reimbursed Cohen for an amount that would result in $130,000 net (plus a small fee) for Cohen after Cohen paid income taxes on it. Trump put these payments, via multiple checks, on the books of the Trump Organization as "payments for legal services rendered." That is false. Although Cohen is indeed a lawyer, he didn't give any legal advice for that money. Recording it as such violates New York State business law. In addition, legal services are tax deductible, so by falsely recording the nature of the payments, Trump also reduced his New York State income tax by claiming deductions to which he was not entitled. This is tax evasion, although Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg did not indict him for that (but could have).

To win his case, Bragg will have to prove four things, as follows:

Will the whole trial matter at all? It might. A new Ipsos poll shows that 64% of registered voters consider it at least somewhat serious, vs. 34% who don't think so. It is also possible that many people are only vaguely aware of the charges, but the enormous coverage of the trial will likely make many more people aware of the case. And when the subject of how serious the charges are comes up, at least some reporters are going to point out that people have gone to prison for falsifying business records in New York, so the crime is real and not a witch hunt. (V)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates