Alvin Bragg guilty of political dirty trick

If anything has been established in the courtroom the past couple of weeks of the Trump hush money trial, it’s that Alvin Bragg didn’t have much of a legal case. But he didn’t need one.

The legalities mattered here only insomuch as they provided a veneer over an audacious political maneuver that kept a major-party presidential candidate off the campaign trail for several days a week, and gave his enemies a political cudgel to use against him until November.

What’s the Latin for “specious legal case in service of frankly political ends”?

Even the most hard-bitten, cynical political operative would have been hard-pressed to imagine a way to keep an opponent off the campaign trail entirely. Rummaging through an opponent’s garbage, stealing his debate-prep materials, distorting his record in lavishly funded negative ads — all that looks amateurish compared to abusing the criminal-justice system for political ends the way Alvin Bragg has.

This case is John Grisham meets proud political dirty trickster Roger Stone.

The cliche is that a candidate’s time is a campaign’s most precious resource, and Trump’s has been largely sucked away in a Manhattan courthouse over the last month and a half.

It’s true that Trump made the best use he could of the bully pulpit that the trial afforded him with his statements to the press outside the courtroom. But often they were about the trial itself, and the optics — with Trump penned in by metal dividers — weren’t ideal.

Everything in politics is timing, and the Bragg trial achieved its value by being a 2024 event.

In 2023, it would have been too early — surely, this kind of trial would have helped Trump in the Republican primary even more than the indictments, and the conviction would have been old news by now. And 2025 would be too late.

For Trump, too, 2024 put everything at a premium. It’d be one thing if he weren’t running for president and Bragg was keeping him off the golf course and away from business ventures. That would still be bad given the absurdity of this case, but Trump could always hit the links later.
That the conviction will be vulnerable to getting overturned on appeal doesn’t help Trump any.

As long as Democrats have their “convicted felon” label on Trump for the duration of 2024, it doesn’t matter that there may eventually be a superseding “reversed on appeal” label in 2025 or 2026, when this election will have been long decided.

We don’t know what political effect Trump’s being dubbed a “convicted felon” will have. I’d guess little or none. The trial hasn’t exactly captured the public imagination thus far. It wasn’t the trial of the century; in fact, it was barely the trial of this year or month.

Certainly, Trump’s adversaries will make ample use of his new status as convicted felon, and journalists will ask every Republican they can find how they can possibly justify supporting a convicted Trump.

And so Alvin Bragg will have served his purpose and can go back to the serious business of not prosecuting street crime.

Rich Lowry is editor in chief of National Review

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