Top CNN Legal Expert Shreds Manhattan Trump Case

CNN’s top legal analyst heavily criticized the case brought against former President Donald Trump by the Manhattan District Attorney.

While the jury convicted Trump, the analyst said the case should have never been charged in the first place.

Key problems included the judge’s political donations, the DA touting prosecuting Trump during his campaign, and charges that pushed legal boundaries.

“Both of these things can be true at once: The jury did its job, and this case was an ill-conceived, unjustified mess,” former federal prosecutor Elie Honig wrote. “Sure, victory is the great deodorant, but a guilty verdict doesn’t make it all pure and right. Plenty of prosecutors have won plenty of convictions in cases that shouldn’t have been brought in the first place. ‘But they won’ is no defense to a strained, convoluted reach unless the goal is to ‘win,’ now, by any means necessary and worry about the credibility of the case and the fallout later.”

“The judge donated money — a tiny amount, $35, but in plain violation of a rule prohibiting New York judges from making political donations of any kind — to a pro-Biden, anti-Trump political operation, including funds that the judge earmarked for ‘resisting the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s radical right-wing legacy.’ Would folks have been just fine with the judge staying on the case if he had donated a couple bucks to ‘Re-elect Donald Trump, MAGA forever!’?Absolutely not.”

“District Attorney Alvin Bragg ran for office in an overwhelmingly Democratic county by touting his Trump-hunting prowess. He bizarrely (and falsely) boasted on the campaign trail, ‘It is a fact that I have sued Trump over 100 times.’ (Disclosure: Both Bragg and Trump’s lead counsel, Todd Blanche, are friends and former colleagues of mine at the Southern District of New York.)”

“Most importantly, the DA’s charges against Trump push the outer boundaries of the law and due process. That’s not on the jury. That’s on the prosecutors who chose to bring the case and the judge who let it play out as it did,” he wrote.

“The district attorney’s press office and its flaks often proclaim that falsification of business records charges are ‘commonplace’ and, indeed, the office’s ‘bread and butter.’ That’s true only if you draw definitional lines so broad as to render them meaningless. Of course the DA charges falsification quite frequently; virtually any fraud case involves some sort of fake documentation.”

“But when you impose meaningful search parameters, the truth emerges: The charges against Trump are obscure, and nearly entirely unprecedented. In fact, no state prosecutor — in New York, or Wyoming, or anywhere — has ever charged federal election laws as a direct or predicate state crime, against anyone, for anything. None. Ever. Even putting aside the specifics of election law, the Manhattan DA itself almost never brings any case in which falsification of business records is the only charge,” Honig wrote.

The analyst detailed how the falsification of records charges on their own would be mere misdemeanors but were constructed into a felony case through convoluted means.

No other case has charged federal election laws as direct state crimes.

The analyst argued norms were shattered as the case was crafted individually for Trump in an unprecedented manner.

“Standing alone, falsification charges would have been mere misdemeanors under New York law, which posed two problems for the DA. First, nobody cares about a misdemeanor, and it would be laughable to bring the first-ever charge against a former president for a trifling offense that falls within the same technical criminal classification as shoplifting a Snapple and a bag of Cheetos from a bodega. Second, the statute of limitations on a misdemeanor — two years — likely has long expired on Trump’s conduct, which dates to 2016 and 2017,” Honig said.

Overall, he asserted prosecutors got their conviction but contorted the law in the process and the case was an ill-conceived overreach, though Trump may face challenges overturning it due to New York’s laws.

“So, to inflate the charges up to the lowest-level felony (Class E, on a scale of Class A through E) — and to electroshock them back to life within the longer felony statute of limitations — the DA alleged that the falsification of business records was committed ‘with intent to commit another crime.’ Here, according to prosecutors, the ‘another crime’ is a New York State election-law violation, which in turn incorporates three separate ‘unlawful means’: federal campaign crimes, tax crimes, and falsification of still more documents,” he said.

“Inexcusably, the DA refused to specify what those unlawful means actually were — and the judge declined to force them to pony up — until right before closing arguments. So much for the constitutional obligation to provide notice to the defendant of the accusations against him in advance of trial. (This, folks, is what indictments are for.)”

“Prosecutors got their man, for now at least — but they also contorted the law in an unprecedented manner in their quest to snare their prey,” Honig wrote.