In A Man for All Seasons, William Roper suggests he would “cut down every law” to get the Devil. Sir Thomas More responds, “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?”
I’m not a particularly religious person, but I’m open to the possibility that Donald Trump is actually the Devil. Even so, the existence of the rule of law in our country is dependent on giving everyone its benefits. And that brings us to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his case against Trump. We have not yet seen the sealed indictment against Trump but I fear, in More’s words, that Bragg is ready to “cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil.”
Trump is reportedly facing 30-plus counts related to business fraud. Based on what we know from the grand jury, at least some of those counts will require the DA’s office to prove that Trump falsified business records when the Trump Organization labeled payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels as a legal expense—and that Trump did it to hide or facilitate a federal campaign finance violation. For now, I will focus on this charge, which I believe sets a dangerous precedent and undermines our legal system.
Others have gone into great detail outlining why this charge—a state crime that relies on proving an uncharged federal crime that rests on a legal theory that has also been criticized as “murky”—has been met with so much skepticism by lawyers. But for the time being, let’s assume that this indictment strains the text and purpose of the law to reach actions we think are bad by a guy we know is bad. Would that be such a bad thing?