Bragg’s Team — With Judge’s Blessing — Argues Unproven Claim Trump Violated Federal Law In Lengthy Closing Argument

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s team spent time during closing arguments Tuesday arguing the unproven assertion that former President Donald Trump violated federal campaign finance law by seeking to suppress unfavorable stories ahead of the 2016 election.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told the jury that stories American Media Inc. (AMI) purchased on behalf of and in coordination with Trump in a so-called “catch-and-kill scheme” equated to “unlawful campaign contributions,” according to multiple reports. Steinglass rehashed the three payments to suppress stories — to former Trump Tower doorman Dino Sajudin, former Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels — that they’ve argued demonstrate Trump engaged in a conspiracy to influence the 2016 election through “unlawful” means.

“It turned out to be one of the most valuable contributions anyone ever made to the Trump campaign,” Steinglass said of the agreement to suppress negative stories about Trump that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker made during a 2015 meeting at Trump tower, according to CNN. “This scheme cooked up by these men at this time could very well be what got President Trump elected.”

Steinglass called the Trump Tower meeting “the subversion of democracy,” per the outlet. He explicitly argued the $150,000 Pecker’s AMI paid to McDougal was “the definition of an unlawful corporate campaign contribution” and “the antithesis of a normal legitimate press function.”

A violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) is among the three theories Judge Juan Merchan allowed prosecutors to present to the jury as the “other crime” they allege Trump committed. While Trump was indicted on 34 counts for allegedly falsifying business records related to reimbursing Cohen for the Stormy Daniels payment, prosecutors alleged that he falsified the records to conceal or commit another crime to charge them as felonies.

Prosecutors suggested during opening statements that Trump violated New York Election Law § 17-152, which makes it a misdemeanor for any two or more people to “conspire” to influence an election using “unlawful means.” (RELATED: Ex-Elections Official Lays Out How Trump Trial Judge Who Restricted His Planned Testimony Gave Alvin Bragg A Leg Up)


“It is impossible to draw any conclusion other than that Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg knew that, as a state prosecutor, his enforcement of federal law would be incredibly controversial since he has no such authority; the federal agencies that do have such authority investigated Trump and opted not to prosecute; and to get this prosecution done, Bragg is simply making up his own version of federal law,” former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy wrote for the National Review.

Merchan previously restricted the defense’s planned expert witness, former commissioner on the Federal Election Commission Brad Smith, from testifying on whether or not the Stormy Daniels payment violated federal campaign finance law. The defense ultimately opted not to call Smith as a witness. He also allowed both Cohen and Daniels to testify over objections from the defense.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley wrote that Steinglass was directly claiming the McDougal payment constituted “an illegal campaign contribution despite the fact that the federal government rejected this claim and did not find any basis for even a civil fine.”

“Merchan seems to have kept the defense in a small neighborhood while allowing the prosecutors to go globe trotting with prejudicial and, in my view, improper references,” Turley wrote on X.

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