How Alvin Bragg Hitched His Fate to Trump’s

Reporters vied for seats in the briefing room, some even crouching on the floor. They all knew, on this Tuesday in early April 2023, that Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, was about to announce something momentous: the first criminal charges against a former American president.

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Yet when Bragg walked quietly onto the stage, it took a second or two for the audience to realize he was there. In his dark blue suit and dark-rimmed glasses, he blended into the dark blue curtains behind the lectern. He took out his notes and thanked everyone for coming. He was flanked by poster boards with flow charts, but that was as far as the showmanship went.

The accusations he went on to level against Donald J. Trump were salacious, involving money paid to a porn star just before the 2016 presidential election so she would remain silent about her claim that they had sex a decade before. But Bragg studiously avoided mentioning sex or hush money during the 13-minute event, focusing instead on 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up the payment. Bragg looked frequently at his notes while he spoke, mostly in a monotone. He seemed unprepared (or unwilling) to answer the most obvious questions: why he had abandoned a different case, about whether Trump had falsified the valuations of properties, or why he thought he could make these new charges stick.

Bragg displayed passion only once, in response to a question about why he brought a hush-money case after his predecessor and federal prosecutors had not.

“This is the business capital of the world,” Bragg said, his voice rising. “We regularly do cases involving false business statements. The bedrock — in fact, the basis for business integrity and a well-functioning business marketplace — is true and accurate record-keeping. That’s the charge that’s brought here, falsifying New York State business records.”

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