Trump can be déjà vu of case that fizzled against Democratic darling John Edwards

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Legal hawks and laypeople alike could be forgiven for being skeptical about the former president’s first impeachment, as we toggle back and forth between the historical significance and the facts involved.

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As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said: “Look, I don’t know what it takes to secretly pay a porn star to keep quiet about some kind of alleged affair.”

Allegations that Donald Trump falsified internal business records to cover up $130,000 in payments to “actress” Stormy Daniels are what people won’t be focusing on.

The case has been a go-to for cable-TV shows long before it’s ever seen inside a courtroom.

The Trump indictment certainly adds an extra coat of obscenity to The Donald’s image.

But the legal foundation of the case is reminiscent of the crash-and-burn prosecution of John Edwards, the former US senator and 2004 Democratic nominee for vice president, who was convicted in 2011 on six felony charges.

Those charges included four counts of collecting illegal campaign contributions, one count of conspiracy and one count of making false statements.

The heart of the Edwards indictment was that he solicited some $1 million from wealthy donors to conceal his affair with Riley Hunter, a videographer who worked on two of his campaigns for president.

John Edwards, former US Senator and the 2004 Democratic nominee for Vice President, who was indicted in 2011 on six felony charges.
AP/Gerry Broom

After a year of drama, in 2012 jurors found Edwards not guilty on one count of illegal use of campaign funds.

When the jury could not reach a verdict, a mistrial was declared against him in all other cases.

Avenatti careful too

Today, even Michael Avenatti, the former attorney for Stormy Daniels, who won generous praise for bringing her allegations into the national spotlight in 2018 when Trump was president, has strong doubts about the Bragg indictment.

Avenatti is serving 11 years in prison for extortion and fraud, but his tweets from prison shouldn’t be overlooked.

They think the unreliability of Michael Cohen, the star witness of Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who once served as Trump’s personal attorney and secretly paid money, would be disastrous.

“Rule: If you have to meet a witness more than twenty times to arrive at the alleged ‘facts’ and ‘truth’, RUN!!! Because you have made yourself a terrible witness who cannot be trusted and it can damage your career and your reputation,” Avenatti wrote.

Michael Avenatti
Stormy Daniels’ former attorney, Michael Avenatti, is serving 11 years in prison for extortion and fraud.
AP/John Minchillo

He previously commented: “Many important facts and pieces of evidence (texts, emails, etc.) relating to the hidden money scam have not yet come to light. And unfortunately they will be very damaging to the prosecution if Trump prosecutes. At this point, you can’t build a case on the testimony of Cohen and Daniels.”

There are many parallels between the Trump indictment and the prosecution of John Edwards.

At first, both cases were viewed with suspicion because they were brought by prosecutors from the other side.

In Edwards’ case, the Obama Justice Department gave holdover permission to George Holding, the US attorney appointed by President George W. Bush, to bring the case.

Holding then resigned, ran for Congress in 2012, and was elected.

In the Trump case, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg is known to be politically ambitious and has leapfrogged in front of the pack of progressive prosecutors, handpicked with the help of mega-donor George Soros, who has liberally voted to fight against everything Trump. have spent to Donald Trump.

alvin bragg
Many people are confused by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s approach to the Trump case.

Second, a decade ago, Edwards’ defense team argued that $1 million in donations made by 101-year-old Gillette razor heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and fellow trial attorney Fred Barron were personal gifts from friends, not campaign contributions — and their It was to hide the affair from his cancer-stricken wife, not the voters.

In Trump’s case, his attorney, Joe Tacopina, is leaning heavily on the Edwards legal playbook, saying Trump was “paid with personal funds not to reveal anything wrong but to embarrass himself and his family.” be prevented from”. ™ young son, ”Tacopina told ABC News this year.

Third, both cases involved star witnesses whose credibility was directly challenged.

In Edwards’ case, it was his former colleague Andrew Young who took the stand under a grant of immunity to testify against him.

Defense cross-examination portrayed Young as an inconsistent witness.

In Trump’s case, it would be Michael Cohen, who pleads guilty to finance violations and lying to Congress over his role in arranging the sneak-money payments to Daniels.

“Just as Andrew Young’s cross-examination was critical in the John Edwards case, it appears that Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels’ cross-examination, if she does testify, will be critical regardless of what charges are brought,” Steven Friedland, Elon, North Carolina a law professor at the university and a former federal prosecutor who followed the Edwards case told ABC News.

stormy daniels
Trump was indicted in connection with a $130,000 payment made to Stormy Daniels in the lead-up to the 2016 election.
Reuters/Mike Blake

Jeff Welty, a government professor at the University of North Carolina, told the Raleigh News & Observer this month that prosecutors must prove intent to violate the law in campaign finance cases.

In the Edwards case, jurors found his testimony of intent to be ambiguous.

They could not ascertain what the former senator had personally directed to happen, what his aide Andrew Young had done on his behalf, and what “Bunny” Mellon’s motives were in donating to Edwards.

After the Edwards case ended, juror Cindy Acquaro said she felt the defendant was guilty of something.

But he said he was smart enough to hide it and that jurors didn’t find evidence: “We didn’t find evidence.”

alvin bragg
Bragg once shared that he helped prosecute Trump over 100 times while serving in the New York Attorney General’s office.
Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

Fourth, the legal theory Alvin Bragg is using to impeach Trump on campaign-finance violations is not well established.

Friedland, the former prosecutor, says it is “novel” today when it was used unsuccessfully in the Edwards case.

Chaos in DA’s office

Indeed, Mark Pomerantz, the prosecutor overseeing the investigation in Alvin Bragg’s office, resigned last year after Bragg dropped the investigation into Trump’s business practices.

That indictment says Bragg is now pursuing a “zombie” case against Trump beset by legal pitfalls.

A lot of Democrats are surprised by Bragg’s decision to muddy the waters in pursuing Trump. A top Democratic consultant told me, “In the Bill Clinton impeachment we were able to score points by saying it was all about sex rather than lying.” “Now Bragg is stepping in.” , , A case that makes it seem like Trump’s enemies are stalking him the way Clinton was stalked. The hysteria may be about to repeat itself.”

Donald Trump
Trump’s lawyer says the payment was made “with personal funds to reveal some wrongdoing but also to embarrass himself and his family including his young son.”
AFP via Getty Images

In the coming days, you will see legal experts opining that the case against Trump is more solid and compelling than the case against Clinton and Edwards.

But the perception among many other legal experts that would rather not hiss in front of a TV camera is that Bragg is pursuing a shabby case that could set a terrible political precedent.

During his 2021 campaign to become a prosecutor, Bragg claimed he helped prosecute Trump more than 100 times while serving in the New York attorney general’s office.

Bragg carried that line into a narrow three-point victory for the Democratic nomination in 2021.

Now, with the Trump indictment, Bragg has elevated himself to the status of America’s latest celebrity accuser.

But painting an ugly portrait of Donald Trump is not the same as winning a legal case – either in court or in the court of public opinion.

Trump can be déjà vu of case that fizzled against Democratic darling John Edwards

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