[Fox News] Trump’s ‘modern day Salem witch trial’ verdict signals ‘open season’ on former presidents: experts

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Former President Donald Trump’s trial in Manhattan was a “modern day Salem witch trial” that has opened the floodgates to district attorneys across the nation prosecuting former presidents, experts told Fox News Digital. 

“No matter how you twist and warp the traditional role of the prosecutor, it’s always going to have a bad outcome. It’s bad for the legal system. And you now see two DAs — both of whom are Soros, rogue prosecutors — using their office to go after somebody who, if his name had not been Trump, no DA would have even blinked an eye his way. [They are using] the law in a perverted way for purely political reasons,” Heritage Foundation legal fellow Charles “Cully” Stimson told Fox News Digital in a phone interview. 

“It doesn’t even pass the laugh test,” he added. 

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Bragg charged former Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree last year, with Trump pleading not guilty and slamming the case as a “scam.” He was found guilty on May 30 by a Manhattan jury.

Trump has maintained his innocence since the verdict, and he has launched an appeal in the case

Prosecutors needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump falsified 34 business records to conceal a $130,000 payment to former pornography actor Stormy Daniels in the lead-up to the 2016 election to silence her about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.

The House Judiciary, which is chaired by Republican Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, held a hearing Thursday regarding Trump’s prosecution, hearing from four experts on the matter, including Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey and Commissioner of the Federal Election Commission Trey Trainor. The committee will hold another hearing next month, one day after Trump is sentenced, when it will host Bragg himself, as well as prosecutor and former DOJ official Matthew Colangelo. 

“With his unprecedented politicized indictment of President Trump, Manhattan District Attorney Bragg has opened the door for politically motivated prosecutions of federal officials by state and local prosecutors. Other ambitious state prosecutors have already followed Bragg’s lead and pursued politically motivated indictments of President Trump,” committee Republicans said of the hearing Thursday. 

“On April 4, 2023, after campaigning on his experience in investigating President Trump and in response to intense pressure from left-wing activists, Bragg charged President Trump with 34 felony counts for falsifying business records. Falsifying business records is ordinarily a misdemeanor subject to a two-year statute of limitations, which would have expired long ago. While Bragg is systematically downgrading most felonies in Manhattan to misdemeanors, he used a novel and untested legal theory—previously declined by federal prosecutors—to upgrade the charges against President Trump to felonies. Bragg’s case against President Trump has beset by due process and procedural irregularities,” they added. 

Fox News Digital spoke to the authors of “Rogue Prosecutors: How Radical Soros Lawyers Are Destroying America’s Communities,” Stimson and fellow Heritage senior fellow Zack Smith, who explained that the role of the district attorney is to prosecute cases and keep the community safe. The pair both agreed in separate interviews that the case was one that weaponized the legal system. 

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“This clearly is essentially a weaponization of the legal system. And I think if we zoom out and look at the 40,000-foot perspective, I think it quickly becomes clear, that if the defendant wasn’t named Donald Trump, this case never would have been brought. And that’s particularly apparent if you look at the other policies and actions Alvin Bragg has taken since he’s been elected District Attorney,” Smith said. 

Smith pointed to Bragg’s “day one memo,” back when he took the office in 2022, which detailed that he would not prosecute those charged with low-level misdemeanors and felonies.  

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He pledged “not to prosecute most other misdemeanors there in Manhattan, pledging not to prosecute many low-level felonies, even many serious felony offenses. Or if he did prosecute them, not to seek a sentence of incarceration by default, and often to seek very lenient sentences for individuals accused of even very serious crimes,” Smith said. 

“So, I think any reasonable observer would look at this and say, that unless this was Donald Trump being prosecuted, this case wouldn’t have been brought.”

Smith explained that while Bragg pursued the lengthy case against Trump, New York City likely suffered as other violent crime continue to play out on the Big Apple’s streets. 

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“I don’t think it will come as a shock that there’s no shortage of violent crime in New York City today — watch the news, look at the stories that are out there. You’ll see often very violent criminals committing acts and being released back into the community again,” he said. 

Stimson penned an op-ed with legal scholar John Yoo this month outlining that the NY v. Trump case effectively declared “open season” for America’s more than 2,300 elected district attorneys to pursue cases against former presidents. 

“President Trump’s enemies have been so busy celebrating his conviction in New York last week that they don’t seem to realize what a double-edged sword they’ve unsheathed. Regardless of Trump’s fate on appeal, one or more of the 2,300 elected district attorneys across the country may now feel liberated. They can now pursue former presidents, including President Biden, regardless of the merits of the case, purely for political gain or retribution,” the pair wrote in the op-ed. 

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Stimson and Yoo pointed specifically to Bragg and Fulton County, Georgia, DA Fani Willis for opening the flood gates to DAs prosecutors pursuing cases against other former presidents. Willis brought forth the election inference case against Trump, charging him and 18 co-defendants with racketeering over allegations that they had tried to overthrow the 2020 election. 

“We are not suggesting that any county prosecutor must retaliate against Biden simply because Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and Fulton County DA Fani Willis prosecuted Donald Trump—though it is hard to see what else would stop rogue progressive prosecutors from continuing to charge Republican presidents. Rather, we are suggesting that the likelihood of other county prosecutors charging former presidents has gone from zero to some undetermined percentage,” they highlighted. 

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DAs, they speculated, could open an investigation into the Biden family regarding whether Hunter and James Biden “were taking money from foreign governments and companies to influence U.S. government decisions,” which would thus involve President Biden. They noted: “A DA would already have the paper trail set out by congressional investigators and IRS whistleblowers.”

Or a “creative county prosecutor in Texas” could pursue a case against President Biden for “any number of crimes for his immigration policies on the border,” they added. 

“Trump’s foes can cheer all they want, but the short-term political gain Bragg and those who support him may reap from this flawed and unorthodox prosecution will potentially be dwarfed by the long-term damage to stability of the Office of the President,” they added. 

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