Alvin Bragg ‘Not Even Close’ to Tying Trump to Fraudulent Scheme: Attorney

Amid former President Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial in New York City, the prosecution’s case “is not even close” to tying him to a fraudulent scheme, attorney and legal analyst Jonathan Turley said on Sunday.

Michael Cohen, the former Trump attorney and fixer at the center of the case, is expected to testify on Monday as the prosecution’s key witness. However, several legal analysts, including Turley, have cast doubt on the prosecution’s strategy to convict Trump, which relies heavily on Cohen’s testimony. Cohen is a disbarred lawyer who previously pled guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud, campaign-finance violations and lying to Congress.

Following an investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office, Trump was indicted in March 2023 on charges of falsifying business records relating to hush money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels by Cohen during his 2016 presidential campaign. Daniels had alleged she had an affair with Trump in 2006, which he has denied. The former president has pleaded not guilty to all charges and said the case against him is politically motivated.

Trump, the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee, became the first former president in U.S. history to stand trial in a criminal case last month.

Alvin Bragg
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is seen on March 25 in New York City. Amid former President Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial in New York City, the prosecution’s case “is not even close” to…

Mary Altaffer-Pool/Getty Images

On his personal website, Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School, posted an expanded version of his Sunday New York Post column. There, he wrote about the lack of new evidence from prosecutors in the case, adding that it was “virtually entirely on the testimony of Michael Cohen,” whom Turley later describes as having “a record of saying whatever serves his interests and those of his sponsors.”

“Bragg first has to show [Judge Juan] Merchan that someone claimed to have evidence directly tying Trump to an intentional fraudulent scheme to conceal a crime,” Turley wrote. “Thus far, Bragg is not even close. Indeed, many of his witnesses helped Trump more than they hurt him on the actual charges.”

Regarding Cohen’s upcoming testimony, Turley added, “Cohen has to say that Trump specifically knew and approved of the characterization of the payments as ‘legal expenses.’ He further has to establish that Trump intended the denotation to conceal the payments for the purposes of election violations or fraud.”

Newsweek has reached out to Turley for comment via email.

So far, several legal analysts have told Newsweek that Cohen has presented problems for the prosecution.

Lawyer Michael Moore previously told Newsweek via email that the prosecution has had to focus extensively on bolstering Cohen’s credibility and “have him as the sole witness to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Trump knew anything about how the expenses listed in the state business records were being categorized. Without that link, they have little more than Trump signing checks.”

Former federal prosecutor Michael McAuliffe previously told Newsweek that “Michael Cohen is a complete mess as a witness for the prosecution,” adding that his previous comments about Trump and “often bizarre publicity stunts” make him “less and less useful as a source of credible evidence.

Cohen, a now staunch critic of Trump, has been vocal on TikTok and other social media platforms about the former president and the trial in the days leading up to his expected testimony. Last week, Cohen posted a TikTok while wearing a shirt that featured a photo of Trump in an orange jumpsuit behind bars.

Meanwhile, former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance took a more positive approach toward Cohen’s ability to tie up the prosecution’s case in a recent newsletter. “Presumably, Cohen’s testimony will connect Trump directly to the crime. We know that there is a partial audio recording of at least one of their conversations,” she wrote. “His testimony will make or break the case.”

Los Angeles-based litigator John J. Perlstein previously told Newsweek that he tends “to think he [Cohen] will be credible when it comes to the information relative to the charges against Trump, who is also disliked in my humble opinion.”