Those of us still on Twitter woke up to find Stormy Daniels trending this morning. Not because Twitter is slowly breaking itself — although it is! — or because we’ve all fallen into a time warp and have to relive the entire Trump administration again — God forbid! — but because Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is currently floating a trial balloon about criminally indicting Trump for the 2016 hush money payment to the adult film star.
The New York Times reported this morning that Bragg’s office “has moved to jump-start its criminal investigation” into the $130,000 payoff which was laundered through Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen to bury the story about an alleged sexual encounter in 2006.
“Under the new district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, the prosecutors have returned to the long-running investigation’s original focus: a hush-money payment to a porn star who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump,” the Times writes about Bragg, who has been in office for close to a year now and already passed on a criminal indictment of the former president for falsifying business records, causing the outside attorneys Marc Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, who’d spent months preparing the case, to resign in disgust.
Bragg took a massive political hit for appearing to let Trump skate, and his reputation hasn’t improved as New York Attorney General Letitia James’s has doggedly pursued the former president, even as Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Justice Department investigations are now centralized under a special counsel. And now, in what is probably not a coincidence of timing, we are suddenly getting a story about a reinvigorated investigation by the DA, possibly by flipping longtime Trump Org. CFO Allen Weisselberg.
“To ramp up the pressure, the prosecutors are considering a new round of charges against Mr. Weisselberg in hopes of securing his cooperation against the former president, the people said,” the Times reports breathlessly. “Those potential charges concern insurance fraud and are unrelated to the hush money.”
Weisselberg, who remains on the Trump payroll, already refused to flip on Trump, with the 75-year-old opting instead to spend five months at Rikers. Last week, he got on the witness stand and took full responsibility for a tax fraud scheme to pay his living expenses with pre-tax dollars, despite the fact that Trump’s signature was on corporate checks used to pay tuition for Weisselberg’s grandchildren. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there is no fucking way that guy is going to flip on Trump, Bragg’s vague gesturing in the direction of Trump Org. insurance scams uncovered by the NYAG notwithstanding. That ship has not only sailed, it’s sunk.
But speaking of pointless gestures, the Daily Beast’s Jose Pagliery uncovered some fancy dancing on the Appellate Division’s First Department by lawyers for Ivanka Trump. Last week, trial Justice Arthur Engoron appointed retired federal Judge Barbara Jordan as an independent monitor of the Trump Org., tasking her with ensuring that the company’s future financial statements are truthful and that no assets are moved outside the jurisdiction of the court. Vanky’s lawyers promptly moved to exempt Princess Nepotism from the order, claiming that “the trial court erred in including Ms. Trump in the Order in her individual capacity.”
“It is axiomatic that a court abuses its discretion where, as here, it awards unsought equitable relief sua sponte without identifying any evidentiary support for the relief; while departing dramatically from the specific relief sought by the plaintiff; and imposing significant prejudice on a party,” they wrote, insisting that their client hasn’t been involved in the business since 2017 when she and her husband decamped for DC to run the White House as “special advisors.”
Although Ivanka Trump’s conduct is not specifically mentioned in the order appointing Judge Jordan independent monitor, Ivanka was a vice president at the Trump Organization during much of the time the allegedly fraudulent conduct took place. The complaint against the company and its top staff describes her as running point with Deutsche Bank, including supplying it with the fraudulent financial statements exaggerating Trump’s net worth to secure loans. She also made millions of dollars a year off of Trump-related entities, even after becoming a full time MAGA staffer. So it’s hardly surprising that her gambit for special treatment seems to have elicited little more than an eye roll at the appellate court.
“The application for an interim stay is denied pending determination of the motion by a full bench,” Justice Angela M. Mazzarelli hastily scrawled, expediting the motions in preparation for a full panel hearing on November 28.
But give Vanky credit: at least she filed that dumb motion, rather than running to reporters to claim that she was very seriously considering taking the fight to her enemies, hoping for a little political cover, and then doing nothing at all.
Manhattan Prosecutors Again Consider a Path Toward Charging Trump [NYT]
Ivanka Trump Tried to Dodge Her Court-Appointed Financial Monitor [Daily Beast]
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.