“what’s going on in New York State with the weaponization of prosecutors’ offices both criminally and civilly is really troubling”

2024-03-23 18:00:51

I appeared on The Legal Lowdown with Imran H. Ansari, Esq., to talk about Donald Trump’s various prosecutions and lawsuits.

(This is very partial, I don’t have time to clean up a long transcript today, including the discussion of Trump’s appeals bond issue that came at the end. Be sure to listen to the whole thing)(time stamps are to mp3).

Ansari (01:45):

So, professor, let’s first talk about some of the issues that we are seeing with the former President Donald Trump… So what are your thoughts about that? Just this aspect that we have a leading presidential candidate, former president, who is undergoing really a legal attack on all fronts.

WAJ (03:24):

Well, I think that the overall impact of this is, it is a broad attempt to take down the leading Republican candidate, to either ruin him financially or to tie him up financially or to put him in prison, or to get him convicted. And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this is all happening in an election year. Of the four prosecutions against him, criminal prosecutions, three of them clearly could have been brought two years ago because they’re based on things related to the 2020 election, but they waited until close to an election year where they filed the cases the year before the election, knowing it would run into the election year. So I don’t think you can look at the situation and say, it’s just coincidence, or, well, it’s his fault because he engaged, allegedly in criminal behavior. These were timed for an election year.

They wanted us to be talking in 2024 about prosecutions of Trump. Whether they happen, whether he gets convicted, it’s the hot topic. And so we’re spending time talking about that instead of our open border where thousands of criminals are coming across the border as jails get emptied in South America and Central America. So I think the big takeaway is there is a concerted effort, where prosecutors have abused, particularly in New York state, have abused their power for political purposes. And that includes the civil lawsuit by Letitia James. It includes what wasn’t a prosecution office, but it includes that ridiculous libel case against Trump, which I think will not be sustained, at least not the damages on appeal. So that’s the big takeaway, there is a concerted effort to take down Trump.

Ansari (05:21):

… you would think that if your motivation was a political motivation, then you would want to make sure that you have an ironclad case, otherwise you’re going to just end up feeding into what you’re trying to work against. Would you agree?

WAJ (06:19):

Well, that’s right. And it’s not just speculation that at least in the New York Manhattan criminal case and the New York Civil case were politically motivated. And we know that because the prosecutors told us that when they were running for office, that their goal is to get Trump. Letitia James was particularly open and effusive about how she wanted to get not only Donald Trump, but his family. That’s completely unseemly from a prosecutor. That’s an abusive prosecutorial power. And nobody in New York State really wants to talk about that, because for the most part, the media hates Donald Trump.

So it’s really quite something where you have people running their prosecution campaigns to become prosecutors, to get a specific person. That’s not supposed to happen. These are completely tainted. There should have been either an independent investigation or whatever it is, and we’ve seen that they have therefore stretched legal theories, which have held up in the state Supreme Court, which your listeners will know, is actually the lowest court, the trial court, so far.

But the theory in the Alvin Bragg prosecution is really novel and was criticized by a lot of liberal legal commentators, which is they took an old stale misdemeanor books and records violation and concocted a legal theory to turn it into a felony, so they could extend the statute of limitations. In the civil case, the Attorney General’s office used a civil statute that’s never been used in this way before. This is novel.

So you have two prosecutors saying they’re going to run for office to get Donald Trump. And in the case of Letitia James, his family also. Who then come up with stretched theories, which have held up at a trial court level so far, we’ll see if they hold up on appeal, but the appeals won’t be decided for a year or two or three. And so we’re not going to know during the presidential election whether they hold up on appeal or not. I don’t think they will, but we’ll find out.

So this is so abusive. It’s really terrible what’s happened, particularly in New York State. We can talk separately about the federal prosecutions, but what’s going on in New York State with the weaponization of prosecutors’ offices both criminally and civilly is really troubling, and it’s really something that people need to be talking more about.

Ansari (08:57):

You know, that’s great insight, professor Jacobson. I mean, I’m with you on all points there… But I think it’s a dangerous prospect because you’re gonna lose the faith of the public, and you’re also going to open up precedent where political offices may be used for, as you say, the weaponization of the prosecutorial agency and what we’ve seen here.

WAJ (10:02):

Yeah, but you know, in New York, they don’t have to worry about that. Democrats in New York do not have to worry about the weaponization being turned against them because they know it won’t happen. The Attorney general now is a Democrat, is a Trump hater. The prosecutirs in most of the counties are Democrats. So I hear this a lot and I understand it, that they are destroying the credibility of the court system, the credibility of the prosecutorial system, and it could come back to haunt them. But they know and we know it won’t. At least not in New York State. Now, perhaps if Red States started retaliating, maybe if they started doing this, but they probably won’t either. That’s the disparity between the Democrats and the Republicans when it comes to abuse of the law. So, yes, it does set a really bad precedent, but it’s not a precedent that Democrats in New York State are the least bit worried about.

***

Ansari  (13:13):

…. Professor, let’s jump back into the discussion on the Trump cases, but I actually want to talk about ome news that came out of the Georgia case this week. So Fani Willis was facing disqualification, on motion by the defendants … And the judge rendered a decision this past week, and she is not going to be disqualified from that case. I want to get your thoughts on that.

WAJ (14:01):

That was a very bizarre decision by the judge. What he found was that there was an appearance of a conflict of interest between the two prosecutors, the lead county prosecutor, Fani Willis, and her lover, I forget his first name, Wade, who she hired, Nathan Wade, who she hired for this prosecution. And she funneled a lot of money to him, both through payroll and also they had some sort of arrangemen, very murky, with cash transactions. So he found that that created an appearance of impropriety. So far, so good.

But then he says he’s going to let them decide which of them drops out. Why would a judge do that, if there is an appearance of impropriety? They should both be gone. I mean, that was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, or one of the crazier things where a judge finds two people, in a prosecution, and it’s important that it’s a criminal prosecution, the two prosecutors have created the appearance of impropriety, and then he lets them decide which one gets kicked off the case.

It’s like if you found two people robbing a bank, would you say, well, you two decide which one of you gets prosecuted? That made no sense to me. They should have both been off the case….

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“what’s going on in New York State with the weaponization of prosecutors’ offices both criminally and civilly is really troubling”

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