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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

'Trump enjoys being the victim.' Alvin Bragg's 34-count indictment could help him argue he's been unfairly targeted, ex-prosecutors say.

'Trump enjoys being the victim.' Alvin Bragg's 34-count indictment could help him argue he's been unfairly targeted, ex-prosecutors say.

"You've got to work hard to make President Trump a martyr," Rep. Nancy Mace said, adding the indictment "managed to do just that."
Former President Donald Trump has long framed himself as a victim being unfairly targeted by the establishment, and his recent indictment could provide more fodder for him and his allies to cling to.

The indictment was unveiled Tuesday, revealing the former president was being charged on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection to a $130,000 hush-money payment that was made to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. Trump has denied the affair and being involved in the payment.

But former prosecutors told Insider the indictment was underwhelming, noting Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg did not specify exactly what underlying crime Trump allegedly committed that would've justified the bumping the charges up to felony status.

They also said the 34 counts could be viewed as excessive — and even give Trump and his team fuel to argue he was being unfairly targeted.

"Trump enjoys being the victim in all this, and that's what he's going to lean into," Joshua Ritter, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor and partner with El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers, told Insider. "It begins to look like you're piling on when you charge it this way."

Ritter said there was nothing improper or illegal about charging Trump on each individual document, but that it's not a universally common practice. For instance, he compared it to someone breaking into and robbing a safe, in which case the suspect would typically be charged with burglary, rather than being charged on each individual piece of jewelry that was stolen.

The 34 charges may not impact how the case is viewed in the criminal court, Ritter said, "but in the way it plays out in the court of public opinion, it's probably going to work to his benefit — when you realize this isn't 34 independent criminal acts, but 34 steps towards the same criminal act."

Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor, also told Insider the 34 counts appeared to be inflated, adding: "We know Trump is going to do everything he can to take advantage of this politically — he feels Republicans on Capitol Hill see this as a win for them. They're going to say everything they can to make this out to be a witch hunt conducted by unruly prosecutors."

Ambrosio Rodriguez, a former prosecutor in the Riverside County district attorney's office in Southern California, also expressed concerns about the case, telling Insider that Bragg "should have taken into account the precedent that this sets and whether or not this particular set of facts was worth it."

The former prosecutors also said that in a case like this that was so politically charged and unprecedented, Bragg's indictment should've been a slam-dunk.

"When you are about to make history you would expect you would have something rock solid. This is not anywhere near rock solid," Ritter said.

Trump was leaning into his victimhood even before Tuesday's arraignment, sending a fundraising email with the subject line: "My last email before my arrest." During a speech from Mar-a-Lago Tuesday night, Trump called the charges "a persecution, not an investigation" and said: "The only crime that I've committed is to fiercely defend our nation."

He struck a similar chord in a fundraising email that followed: "The more they try to frame me, slander me, and destroy me, the stronger my resolve to complete our mission." And on Wednesday, he claimed the indictment was actually paying off for him.

In a post on Truth Social, Trump said Tuesday was "an unbelievable experience, perhaps the Best Day in History for somebody who had just suffered Unjustifiable Indictment!" and added that $10 million had flowed into his campaign coffers because of it.

Even some of Trump's critics saw the indictment as a win for his victimhood narrative.

"You've got to work hard to make President Trump a martyr. Congratulations to Manhattan DA , Alvin Bragg, who has managed to do just that," Republican Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who Trump sought to oust last year, wrote on Twitter. "This clearly political prosecution sets a dangerous precedent."
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