Romney & The Wrong Question: Senator's Statement On Trump's Guilt Captures The Problem With The Manhattan Trial

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Apr 24, 2024 - 05:11 PM

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

Yesterday, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) had a much covered interaction with CNN’s Manu Raju who asked him about Trump’s criminal trial and whether he was guilty of the underlying criminal conduct. Romney responded “I think everybody has made their own assessment of President Trump’s character, and so far as I know you don’t pay someone $130,000 not to have sex with you.” I have previously defended Romney in his votes on impeachment despite our disagreement on the constitutional standard. I also understand that he was making a more general comment on character.

However, his response is precisely what Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is seeking from the jury: a verdict on Trump as a person rather than the underlying criminal allegations.

Trump is currently facing 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree regarding payments made to Daniels during the 2016 presidential election. As I discuss today in the New York Post, many of us (including liberal legal experts) still question whether there is any crime alleged by Bragg. Raju reasonably asked Romney for his own view.

Romney is an interesting person to ask. He is not only a critic of the President from within his own party but he is a former businessman who has had to deal with complex reporting and business obligations.

Romney’s response must be encouraging for Bragg.

Rather than address the ambiguous criminal allegation, Romney suggested that Trump was guilty as charged in having a tryst with a former porn star.

The defense is not contesting the payment and the fact of the affair is not central to the allegations.

The question is whether the payments were unlawfully denoted as legal expenses with the intent to somehow steal the 2016 election.

It is not a crime to use a NDA or other means to quash an embarrassing story.

Bill Clinton had a host of lawyers quashing allegations of affairs and sexual assaults throughout his presidency. He ran into trouble when he committed perjury in the effort to hide what Hillary Clinton called one of his “bimbo eruptions.”

Moreover, denoting this as a legal expense, on the advice of counsel, is not necessarily wrong. It is not clear how it should have been to be denoted. A “nuisance payment”? The campaign of Hillary Clinton and its general counsel Marc Elias hid the funding of the Steele dossier as a legal expense and was fined by the government for doing so. They litigated the question and insisted that that is precisely what it was.

Romney is precisely what Bragg is looking for in these jurors. Smart and savvy, he still viewed the question of the trial as whether Trump had an affair with Stormy Daniels.  If so, it was not a legal expense. Yet, quashing the story and avoiding any litigation was a legal matter with the eventual crafting of the NDA.

There are a lot of motivations for NDAs of this kind. Trump was married. He was the host of a hit television show (with a clause on termination for scandalous conduct). And, yes, he was also seeking to be president. He wanted these stories killed and friends like David Pecker were helping in that effort. What those facts say about the former president’s “character” will remain a matter of public debate and, as Romney said, most long ago reached their own conclusions. Yet, it is the crime not the character of Trump that is at issue in Manhattan.

Alvin Bragg would like the trial to remain a verdict on character, which is why he started the trial discussing not the Daniels matter but an uncharged affair and settlement with a former Playboy bunny. It is why he fought hard (and succeeded) in being able to question Trump about past cases involving an alleged assault and fraudulent conduct. As legal experts continue this week to debate if there is even a crime alleged in the indictment, Bragg is making a case that Trump’s lack of character is beyond a reasonable doubt.

To be fair, Romney was not giving a full interview on the case in his statement to CNN and may well have some reservations about the Bragg indictment. However, Bragg is likely hoping that “everybody has made their own assessment of President Trump,” including twelve jurors currently sitting in the Manhattan courtroom.