Court watchers see a new complexity in the case against President Donald Trump: whether or not the business records in question were designed to violate state tax laws, reports the New York Times.
On Tuesday prosecutors unsealed a 34-count indictment against President Trump alleging he falsified business documents in an attempt to cover up a payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels. As part of his case against the president, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has included charges that Trump falsified business records in order to avoid paying state taxes.
The latest twist comes as Bragg seeks to win the first case in New York state history which mixes both business and federal campaign finance violations. Analysts believe any judge who hears such an argument without precedent will be skeptical.
By contrast, proving tax fraud is considerably easier for the DA to achieve. On Tuesday Bragg elaborated on the 34 bookkeeping charges brought against Trump, who reimbursed his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen for making the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels. By including charges of deceiving state tax regulators, Bragg may be acknowledging only some may stick.
Prosecutors are currently putting forward multiple theories about additional crimes President Trump may have committed by allegedly falsifying documents, creating several paths for a jury to conclude that he did intend to cover up a criminal act.
While bookkeeping violations are normally a misdemeanor, DA Bragg has elevated those charges to a Class E felony. Critics have pointed to Bragg’s history of reducing felony charges to misdemeanors for the majority of defendants during his tenure, including some accused of violent crimes. Bragg’s chief prosecutor Meg Reiss has previously advocated for dismissing jail time for criminals in possession of illegal firearms, a charge that falls into the same Class E felony category as those facing President Trump.