Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg says Trump’s hush money criminal trial isn’t about politics

By JAKE OFFENHARTZ Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — When he was elected two years ago as Manhattan’s first Black district attorney, Alvin Bragg spoke candidly about his unease with the job’s political demands. A former law professor, he’s more comfortable untangling complex legal questions than swaggering up to a podium.

But when the first of Donald Trump’s four criminal prosecutions heads to trial on Monday, about alleged hush money payments to cover up a sex scandal during the 2016 election, Bragg will be at the center of a political maelstrom with few precedents.

Even before announcing the 34-count felony indictment against Trump last year, Bragg was a lightning rod for conservative critics who said he wasn’t tough enough on crime. The upcoming trial will test the Democrat’s efforts to portray himself as apolitical in the face of relentless attacks from the Republican former president and his supporters, who say the prosecution is the epitome of partisanship.

Echoing the racist tropes he has deployed frequently against his legal adversaries, Trump has called Bragg a “thug” and a “degenerate psychopath,” urging his supporters to take action against the “danger to our country.”

Bragg, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has rejected that, comparing the prosecution against Trump to any other case of financial crime.

“At its core, this case today is one with allegations like so many of our white collar cases,” Bragg said in announcing the indictment last year. “Someone lied again and again to protect their interests and evade the laws to which we are all held accountable.”

FILE – Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg listens at news conference in New York, Feb. 7, 2023. As he prepares to bring the first of Donald Trump’s four criminal prosecutions to trial, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg finds himself at the center of a political firestorm. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File) 

The first-ever trial of a former U.S. president will feature allegations that Trump falsified business records while compensating one of his lawyers, Michael Cohen, for burying stories about extramarital affairs that arose during the 2016 presidential race.

The charges — which carry the possibility of jail time — threaten Trump’s campaign schedule as he faces a general election rematch with President Joe Biden.

They have also turned a spotlight on Bragg, who since bringing the indictment has been the target of scores of racist emails and death threats, as well as two packages containing white powder.

“Because he is the first to get Trump to trial, and because he’s been successful so far, the level of hate pointed at Bragg is staggering,” said Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who served as special counsel in the first impeachment trial against Trump. “The threat level is just off the charts.”