Alvin Bragg, a Democratic candidate for Manhattan district attorney at the time, stated in a November 2020 interview with CBS News that among the "staggering" amount of cases "swirling" around then-President Donald Trump, one involving Trump's former "fixer," Michael Cohen, stood out.
In the interview, Bragg reiterated that he could not "prejudge" any case until he viewed the facts, adding that we had not yet discussed Michael Cohen and the campaign financing aspect.
Bragg, a former deputy attorney general for New York state who had previously engaged Trump's business in civil litigation, said he had watched media coverage of Cohen's federal case.
In connection with a $130,000 "hush money" payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, Cohen accepted a guilty plea to federal tax evasion and campaign financing offences in 2018. Trump's former attorney, Cohen, received a 3-year prison term. Since then, he has claimed that the former president ordered him to cover up the money and make the payment in order to stop Daniels from disclosing information about an alleged affair. Trump has categorically denied these allegations.
The indictment against Cohen claims that he plotted with "Individual-1," a presumed "co-conspirator" who was not identified but who the indictment notes was elected president of the United States in 2017.
During the 2020 interview, Bragg brought up the name "Individual-1."
If the information in the reports about it is true, and you know, the Southern District of New York had a charge document where supposedly the president was Individual-1, right? A co-conspirator of someone who pled guilty and, you know, has indicated that the president was his co-conspirator, Bragg continued, later adding.
"Thus, the evidence must be present. Additionally, if the prosecutor has already said so in the charging document and it is a subject of prosecutorial discretion. I thus assume that it may be accurate and charge-ready "stated Bragg.
Federal prosecutors decided not to pursue it against Trump, Bragg observed.
Bragg was likely the D.A. candidate with the greatest experience going up against Trump and his business. He oversaw a number of aggressive legal battles with Trump entities at the New York Attorney General's Office, including one against the Trump Foundation that accused the president and his children of using the organisation as a "personal chequebook" and another against the now-shuttered Trump University that alleged the institution engaged in unethical business practises and made false claims to prospective students.
In November 2021, Bragg was chosen to serve as the district attorney for Manhattan, taking over Cyrus Vance Jr.'s probe into President Trump. Under Vance, the investigation, which had initially focused on the Daniels payment in 2018 but had now expanded into a thorough investigation of Trump's finances, had been vigorously contested by then-President Trump all the way to the Supreme Court.
The two prosecutors overseeing the investigation quit early in his term, casting doubt on the investigation. Former Special Assistant District Attorney Mark Pomerantz stated in a letter of resignation that Bragg had "made the decision not to proceed with the grand jury presentation and not to seek criminal charges at this time."
Pomerantz wrote, "The probe has been put on hold indefinitely."
Bragg's office stated that the investigation was still ongoing nonetheless.
Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, entered a guilty plea in a tax fraud case related to the same probe in August 2022, making him the prosecution's main witness in the trial of two Trump Organization firms.
On December 6, a jury convicted the two corporations guilty on 17 criminal counts involving tax evasion and other offences.
Investigators in Bragg's office had already gone back to the Daniels payment by that point. A grand jury investigating the agreement has questioned a number of former Trump employees and White House staff members in the months following.
One of them was Cohen, who appeared to be the prosecution's star witness and testified before the grand jury for almost five hours over two days in mid-March. Cohen met with prosecutors almost a dozen times this year.
Cohen and his lawyer, Lanny Davis, have acknowledged that they think Cohen is the most important witness against Trump and have praised the prosecutors for being "meticulous" and "professional."
According to Cohen, the funds were transferred through a newly formed limited liability corporation in October 2016. She and Trump allegedly signed a non-disclosure agreement using the names David Dennison and Peggy Peterson, according to Cohen and Daniels.
In his most recent memoir, Pomerantz detailed the potential case. Pomerantz stated that the office's prosecutors thought the Daniels payment was a sign of business record falsification, a misdemeanour that could possibly be charged as a felony under New York law if done with the intent to hide a subsequent offence, in this case, an alleged illegal campaign contribution.
On his social media platform recently, Trump has repeatedly denounced the case and blasted Bragg, branding it a politically driven "witch hunt." If he is charged, Trump has called for protests.
The 2024 Republican presidential candidate wrote on March 19 that "there was no crime, period." "Prosecutorial Incompetence and Election Interference."
Trump became the first former president in American history to be charged with a crime when the grand jury looking into the Daniels payment decided to indict him in late March. On April 4, Trump turned himself in to the police so he could be arraigned in state court on 34 criminal counts of first-degree business record falsification. He entered a not guilty plea to every accusation.