The Arguments for Trump’s Guilt
Here is the best defense I have seen of the charges against Trump. It looks very convincing to me. What Trump did would ordinarily be considered a misdemeanor i.e. he mislabeled the hush money as legal expenses. However, the law says this case is a felony because the act was done to cover up a felony i.e. mislabeling a campaign contribution. It may seem doubtful that the hush money was a campaign contribution. John Edwards was not convicted for a similar charge. (He was not acquitted either. There was a hung jury, and then the Justice Department declined to refile the charges) However, A federal court has already ruled that Trump’s hush money was a felony, and Michael Cohen was sent to prison for it. It makes no sense to say Trump is not guilty for paying Cohen to do something that has been ruled a felony. If Cohen is guilty, then Trump has to be guilty.
What complicates this is that Cohen is being was convicted for a different crime than Trump is being indicted for. Cohen broke a federal law by mislabeling a campaign contribution. Trump broke a New York law by mislabeling a business expense. The New York law is ordinarily a misdemeanor, but because the federal courts ruled that the mislabeling was done in service of a felony, The New York law says the mislabeling is also a felony. Bragg does not have the right to prosecute for breaking the Federal Law, but he does have the right to prosecute for breaking the state law.
I don’t think Trump actually has to have committed the felony himself in order to be guilty of the New York Law. He aided and abetted Cohen’s Felony, even if he was not charged as a Felon himself. And not being charged as a felon does not imply that he wasn’t one. The DA’s office has limited resources and must refrain from prosecuting guilty people all the time. The only reason Trump was not convicted and imprisoned at the time was of a policy of not indicting sitting presidents. Trump is no longer a sitting president, therefore there is now no reason to refrain from indicting and convicting him.
It’s true that Trump has never been formally convicted of this subsidiary felony of Campaign fraud. I think a lot hinges on whether the law says you must always be convicted of the subsidiary felony in order to be guilty of the felonious mislabeling. If there has ever been a case where someone was convicted of the mislabeling without also being convicted of the other felony, I think Trump would have no case. He would also have no case if the law specifically said that aiding and abetting a felony was sufficient to bump up the charge, without requiring actually committing the felony yourself.