By Jack Phillips
A former Federal Elections Commission official said that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has no authority to “enforce federal campaign finance” laws against former President Donald Trump.
“It’s an extremely dubious prosecution, and I say that as a former commissioner on the Federal Election Commission,” former FEC Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky, a Trump ally, told Just The News over the weekend.
Von Spakovsky, now the manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative, said that Bragg is targeting the 45th president for alleged federal election crimes that aren’t within his authority to prosecute. A number of other legal experts, including George Washington University Jonathan Turley, have made similar statements as Trump was indicted for allegedly falsifying business records in connection to payments made during the 2016 campaign.
“No local state prosecutor has the authority to enforce federal campaign finance crimes in the first place,” he told the news outlet. “There’s just nothing from a factual and legal standpoint to this case. But I don’t think this prosecutor cares about that. What he’s counting on is that he’s in Manhattan. Manhattan is one of the most liberal jurisdictions in the country. I think he believes that he can get a liberal jury to convict Trump, no matter what the facts are and no matter what the law is.”
But if Trump is convicted, the former president would have to rely on U.S. appeals courts. The former president could argue that Bragg’s handling of the case could be grounds for an appeal.
“[Trump] can appeal and try to convince an appellate court that this was everything from a malicious prosecution to the fact that it wasn’t actually a violation of the law,” von Spakovsky said. “A lot of this is going to depend on the judges and the tenure of the judges in the state court system. And I think that’s what Bragg is counting on, because his case is so weak, so nonexistent, that even folks on the left side of the political aisle—including prosecutors—have all basically said there’s just nothing to this case.”
It has long been known that Trump was under investigation by several federal agencies for the alleged hush-money payments. But two of them dropped their inquiries into the former president.
While von Spakovsky did not mention specifically why Bragg’s case is out of his jurisdiction, the FEC in 2021 dropped its inquiry on whether Trump violated campaign finance laws when he paid $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels via his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, just days before the 2016 election. Two Democrats on the FEC panel voted to continue their investigation, while the two Republicans on the panel voted to drop the case.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), too, declined to prosecute Trump as prosecutors in the U.S Southern District of New York brought charges against Cohen, who pleaded guilty to a handful of crimes, including tax evasion and federal election crimes. There were reports claiming that the DOJ did not prosecute Trump because there are longstanding rules around prosecuting a sitting president.
“It’s perfectly legitimate to pay a settlement,” von Spakovsky noted of the 2016 payments. “It’s perfectly legitimate to have a nondisclosure agreement. And Bragg’s multiplying that into 34 accounts—that in itself shows a lack of credibility. When prosecutors take a single incident, or two incidents and turn it into three dozen supposed violations of the law, that’s a sure sign that the prosecutor doesn’t have a case and is trying to overwhelm the jury.”
In the case, Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges that were brought against him. Trump, who has also said he did not engage in an affair with Daniels, has asserted that Bragg’s case is politically motivated and has made it a central theme of his 2024 campaign.
Earlier this month, Trump released a campaign-style message saying he would investigate “Marxist” local prosecutors who took campaign cash from controversial left-wing billionaire George Soros. At the same time, Trump said if he is elected, he would appoint 100 U.S. attorneys who back his agenda upon taking office.
“Soros prosecutors appear to be engaging in selective enforcement based on illegal racial discrimination” in places like Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, Trump said, vowing for reform.