Alvin Bragg v. Donald Trump: Inside Manhattan DA's latest legal tangle with former president
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is used to investigating Donald Trump, but his latest probe carries bigger stakes.
Bragg is leading the inquiry into whether Trump paid $130,000 to silence porn actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. The grand jury has now voted to indict Trump, making him the first former president to face criminal charges.
The latest case culminates years of Bragg investigations at the city and state level into Trump and his aides, the Trump Organization and the Trump Foundation. When federal cases fizzled, Bragg initiated local charges against political strategist Steve Bannon after Trump pardoned him and picked up the hush-money investigation into Trump when the Justice Department declined to press charges.
Live updates: Grand jury indicts Donald Trump in New York, first time a former president is charged criminally
Bragg boasted during his 2021 campaign that he helped sue Trump more than 100 times. One case he supervised in the state Attorney General's Office resulted in the Trump Foundation dissolving after paying $2 million to charities.
Bragg's office has won convictions in cases his predecessor filed against two Trump corporations and his chief financial officer.
Trump's clashes with Bragg have become personal. Trump called Bragg, the first Black man to become Manhattan DA, a “racist” for prosecuting him in a post on Truth Social on March 20 and an "animal" who is "doing the work of Anarchists and the Devil" in two posts March 23. Trump posted a picture on Truth Social that he later removed showing himself holding a baseball bat next to Bragg.
Bragg's office has said he is following the law to uncover the truth. As publicity about the case has grown, he has received death threats and a threatening letter with an unknown substance.
“We will not be intimidated by attempts to undermine the justice process, nor will we let baseless accusations deter us from fairly applying the law,” said Danielle Filson, a Bragg spokesperson.
Here is what we know about the investigation:
Bragg a longtime prosecutor, Harvard educated
Before winning election to district attorney, Bragg served in the state Attorney General's Office and as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York.
As chief deputy attorney general, he oversaw 1,500 people and a $225 million budget. Bragg was the first chief of a special unit investigating deaths caused by police conduct. And he directly oversaw the Trump Foundation litigation.
Before Bragg became DA, Trump pardoned Bannon for federal charges related to the not-for-profit We Build The Wall Inc., which was charged with alleged money laundering and conspiracy in a scheme that raised millions of dollars. But Bragg and Attorney General Letitia James announced a six-count indictment in September against Bannon and the group.
Bragg's office won convictions against two parts of the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer. Allen Weisselberg was sentenced to five months in prison after pleading guilty to 15 charges in a scheme to avoid taxes. Two Trump corporations were fined $1.6 million for convictions of 17 felonies.
Between government jobs, Bragg represented the mother and sister of Eric Garner in seeking information about his death during an arrest by city police in 2014. A city grand jury decided not to indict the Officer Daniel Pantaleo and federal prosecutors declined to prosecute him.
Bragg earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University.
Republicans criticize Trump inquiry as 'tenuous and untested'
Trump isn’t alone among Republicans calling the investigation political.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said March 20 “if you have a prosecutor who is ignoring crimes happening every single day in his jurisdiction and he chooses to go back many, many years ago to try to use something about porn star hush money payments, that’s an example of pursuing a political agenda.”
Three House committee chairmen called for Bragg to testify about his inquiry, which they called "politically motivated" and “tenuous and untested.” When Bragg rebuffed their questions into a pending criminal investigation, the chairmen said they were considering legislation to prevent a local prosecutor from charging a president of another party.
Leslie Dubeck, Bragg's general counsel, wrote in reply to the House chairmen that accusations of political motivations were "unfounded."
Bragg pursued Trump after others declined
Bragg’s critics complain he pressed charges for events known for years and that other prosecutors decided not to pursue:
Bragg’s predecessor as DA, Cyrus Vance Jr., didn’t file charges before he left office in late 2021.
Justice Department prosecutors ended their investigation in July 2019 without charging Trump, after Cohen pleaded guilty in August 2018.
Two of Bragg’s prosecutors – Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz – resigned in February 2022 after Bragg expressed doubts about the case.
Trump said in a social media post March 19 that other Democrats in law enforcement such as Vance “looked at it, took a pass.”
Filson said “skilled, honest and dedicated lawyers remain hard at work.”
Bragg critics focus on crime, while he says homidices, shootings down
New York’s crime rate figures prominently in criticism of Bragg from Trump and other Republicans.
Trump accused Bragg in a Truth Social post on March 20 of letting "murderers, rapists, and drug dealers walk free" and presiding over the "biggest violent crime wave" in New York City history.
But Bragg’s office said homicides and shootings in Manhattan are down since he took office more than a year ago.
Bragg’s office said during the first year of his administration, homicides were down 16% and shootings were down 11%. The trend continued this year, with homicides down 32% and shootings down 14%, according to the office.
“Many false claims have been lobbed about, so let’s set the record straight about a few particularly egregious statements about the safety of our great city recently,” Filson said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alvin Bragg v. Donald Trump: Inside look at their latest legal battle