HomePoliticsHe's suing Trump. Just don't ask him to talk about it.

He’s suing Trump. Just don’t ask him to talk about it.

NEW YORK – Five days before his criminal trial against the former president Donald Trumpthe top prosecutor in Manhattan sat opposite the liberal Rev. Al Sharpton in a hotel conference room full of fellow Democrats.

For 12 minutes they talked about growing up in Harlem, teaching Sunday school and fighting gun violence. But not once did the prosecutor Alvin Bragg mention Trump to the MSNBC host. Not once did he bring up the biggest case he ever tried. And Sharpton had agreed not to ask.

“I only talk about this issue in lawsuits and in court. That’s what we do,” Bragg said in a brief interview Wednesday as he left Sharpton’s National Action Network convention.

On Monday, Bragg will become the first prosecutor to put an American president on trial. He will be one of the biggest figures of the 2024 election and a hero to many Democrats, regardless of the outcome. Yet he seems a reluctant participant in his own story, avoiding interviews and refusing to discuss the case publicly.

It’s a stark contrast to the approach of New York’s top lawyer, Democratic Attorney General Tish James, who relished her role in securing a massive civil judgment against Trump — and even received standing ovations from a similar group in recent months audience. In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is also leaning on her prominent role in trying Trump on election interference charges, even after a romantic relationship with her top prosecutor nearly forced her off the case.

Unlike the others, Bragg faced incredible political pressure from his Democratic base to indict Trump. And now that the case is going to trial, the prosecutor is shying away from responsibility for the prosecution. Bragg doesn’t even plan to be in court every day, according to a person familiar with his thinking who was granted anonymity to discuss his plans.

At a time when the idea of ​​an independent judiciary is under fire across the country — from both the left and right — Bragg hopes to soften criticism that he is unfairly prosecuting Trump to hurt the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

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“I have been an officer in the court for more than 20 years, and the way we conduct ourselves is important,” Bragg said. “First and foremost in the courtroom [but] There is of course a public dimension. So we are guided by the rules of the field and fair play.”

His approach is more reminiscent of U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith, who has avoided saying much about his investigation into Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House.

That kind of avoidance is a sound legal strategy, says Eliza Orlins, a Manhattan public defender who filed against Bragg in 2021.

“If he actually showed it off, it would be pretty inappropriate,” Orlins said. Trump’s legal team has already tried to delay the trial by any means necessary, with limited success. “It would taint the potential jury pool if the prosecutor said things there, slam dunking.”

According to people close to him, it is also Bragg’s temperament: subdued, not fiery.

“He’s certainly been in the crosshairs of the MAGA crowd since the day he took office,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, a Democrat who is a friend and ally of Bragg. “And the number of incoming death threats proves that.” But Bragg hasn’t gone off course, he added. “Emotionally he is still extremely solid because he is a resilient, strong person. He knows why he’s doing this.”

Bragg has charged Trump with 34 felony counts of falsifying corporate records — charges that could lead to prison time if convicted. The suit alleges that Trump hid politically damaging information about an affair with porn star Stormy Daniels from voters by submitting fake checks and business records to cover up the hush money payments.

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Trump has personally attacked Bragg, calling him “a degenerate psychopath who really hates the US!” and an ‘animal’. Bragg is black.

But even as an elected official in Manhattan, where the vast majority of the population opposes Trump, Bragg has not fought back. James, on the other hand, has joked that Trump’s inflating his wealth was not “The Art of the Deal” as in his book, but “the art of stealing.”

When Bragg was asked about his case on public radio station WNYC in December, the furthest he went was a technical clarification of the question.

“The bottom line is not money for sex,” Bragg said. “We would say it involves conspiring to corrupt a presidential election and then lying in New York corporate filings to cover it up.”

But his relative silence on the eve of the Trump trial — refusing to be interviewed for a New York Times profile and avoiding the Sunday show circuit — is also a clear part of Bragg’s communications strategy, a silent response to Trump’s incessant complaints , and his supporters, that the case wouldn’t be filed if Trump weren’t Trump.

It hasn’t always been this way for Bragg. He won a competitive open primary for the seat three years ago, in part by arguing that his previous job at the attorney general’s office put him in the best position to take on the Trump investigation, which has been unfolding for years the district attorney’s office in Manhattan.

“Time and time again, he has demonstrated a willingness to stand up to powerful people and interests in the fight for justice,” wrote former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a fundraising email from Bragg’s campaign, “whether it means starting from an investigation into the Trump Foundation or cracking down on abusive landlords.”

But once he came to power, Bragg faced backlash for not immediately denouncing Trump. The lead prosecutors who had handled the case in his office dramatically resigned, while Bragg’s liberal supporters grew restless because no charges had been filed in more than a year.

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“I’ll bring hard cases when they’re ready,” Bragg said at a press conference early last year, defending his considerations.

Like Trump, Bragg’s own political future could depend on the outcome of the case.

Crime rates in Manhattan have been declining during his tenure, but are still above pre-pandemic levels. Like other progressive prosecutors, he has faced intense backlash in his focus on providing alternatives to incarceration. He has been singled out on Fox News and in the conservative New York Post as a prime example of progressive police policies gone wrong.

Bragg is up for re-election in 2025, and the Trump case is something of an electoral gamble for him.

“The political trade-off is that if he wins the case, Trump will re-elect him,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a moderate Democratic political consultant. “If he loses, he could be defeated by the feeling that things are getting out of hand on the streets.”

So even as the Trump trial revolves around him, Bragg has a busy schedule with other things.

After the interview with Sharpton, Bragg said he went to a cybersecurity conference to talk about how his office prosecutes people who finance terrorism with cryptocurrency. Then to internal meetings with his street crime prosecution team.

“We have a lot that matters to everyday New Yorkers,” he said. “I stay focused on really, really important things.”

Moments later, a Fox News reporter and two camera operators ran down the stairs to catch Bragg as he left the building. “Why don’t we focus on crime? Instead of Trump?” the reporter shouted at him. Bragg’s security guard came between them and rushed the prosecutor out a side door.

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