Apr 5, 2023

DA Alvin Bragg Press Conference Transcript

DA Alvin Bragg Press Conference Transcript
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DA Alvin Bragg Press Conference. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):

[inaudible 00:00:01].

DA Alvin Bragg (00:05):

Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us here today. Earlier this afternoon, Donald Trump was arraigned on a New York Supreme Court indictment returned by a Manhattan grand jury on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. Under New York State law, it is a felony to falsify business records with intent to defraud and intent to conceal another crime. That is exactly what this case is about, 34 false statements made to cover up other crimes. These are felony crimes in New York State. No matter who you are, we cannot and will not normalize serious criminal conduct.

The defendant repeatedly made false statements on New York business records. He also caused others to make false statements. The defendant claimed that he was paying Michael Cohen for legal services performed in 2017, this simply was not true. And it was a false statement that the defendant made month after month in 2017, April, May, June, and so on, through the rest of the year. For nine straight months, the defendant held documents in his hand containing this key lie, that he was paying Michael Cohen for legal services performed in 2017 and he personally signed checks for payments to Michael Cohen for each of these nine months. In total, the grand jury found there were 34 documents with this critical false statement.

Why did Donald Trump repeatedly make these false statements? The evidence will show that he did so to cover up crimes relating to the 2016 election. Donald Trump, executives at the publishing company, American Media Inc., Mr. Cohen and others, agreed in 2015 to a catch and kill scheme, that is a scheme to buy and suppress negative information to help Mr. Trump’s chance of winning the election. As part of this scheme, Donald Trump and others made three payments to people who claim to have negative information about Mr. Trump. To make these payments, they set up shell companies and they made yet more false statements, including, for example, in AMI, American Media Inc.’s business records.

One of the three people that they paid to keep quiet was a woman named Stormy Daniels. Less than two weeks before the presidential election, Michael Cohen wired $130,000 to Stormy Daniels’ lawyer. That payment was to hide damaging information from the voting public. The participant’s scheme was illegal. The scheme violated New York election law, which makes it a crime to conspire to promote a candidacy by unlawful means. The $130,000 wire payment exceeded the federal campaign contribution cap and the false statements in EMI’s books violated New York law.

That is why Mr. Trump made false statements about his payments to Mr. Cohen. He could not simply say that the payments were a reimbursement for Mr. Cohen’s payments to Stormy Daniels to do so. To do so, to make that true statement would’ve been to admit a crime. So instead, Mr. Trump said that he was paying Mr. Cohen for fictitious legal services in 2017 to cover up actual crime committed the prior year. And in order to get Michael Cohen his money back, they planned one last false statement. In order to complete the scheme, they planned to mischaracterize the repayments to Mr. Cohen as income to the New York State tax authorities.

The conduct I just described and that which was charged by the grand jury is felony criminal conduct in New York State. True and accurate business records are important everywhere, to be sure. They are all the more important in Manhattan, the financial center of the world. That is why we have a history in the Manhattan DA’s office of vigorously enforcing white collar crime. My office, including the talented prosecutors you saw at arraignment earlier today, has charged hundreds of felony falsifying business records. This charge, it can be said as the bread and butter of our white collar work, and fraud presents itself in all different forms. Here in Manhattan, we have charged falsifying business records for those who violated federal bank secrecy laws. We have charged falsifying business records for those who were seeking to cover up sex crimes and we have brought this charge for those who committed tax violations

At its core, this case today is one with allegations like so many of our white collar cases, allegations that someone lied again and again to protect their interests and evade the laws to which we are all held accountable. As this office has done time and time again, we today uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law. No amount of money and no amount of power changes that enduring American principle. I’ll now take questions.

Speaker 3 (06:28):

Mr. Bragg. Mr. Bragg-

Speaker 4 (06:29):

So we’re going to take a limited number of questions. There are no follow up questions. One question per reporter. I will call on you. And again, we have limited time. Thank you. The first question will be [inaudible 00:06:44].

Speaker 5 (06:47):

Mr. Bragg, thank you. [inaudible 00:06:46]. Why now? Some arguments about this say it’s a political move. You’re not going to be political person. The [inaudible 00:06:53].

DA Alvin Bragg (06:56):

We conducted a thorough and rigorous investigation as we’re known to do at the Manhattan District’s attorney’s office. I’ve been doing this for 24 years and I’m no stranger to rigorous complex investigations. I bring cases when they’re ready. Having now conducted a rigorous thorough investigation, the case was ready to be brought and it was brought.

Speaker 4 (07:18):

[inaudible 00:07:21]

Speaker 6 (07:20):

Thank you. Mr. Bragg, the indictment says that there were 34 false business records and they were done to conceal another crime, but the indictment does not specifically say what those crimes were. We are assuming perhaps that they might be election related. I’m wondering if you can specify what laws were also broken.

DA Alvin Bragg (07:46):

So let me say, as an initial matter, the indictment doesn’t specify it because the law does not so require. In my remarks, I mentioned a couple of laws, which I will highlight again now. The first is New York State election law, which makes it a crime to conspire to promote a candidacy by unlawful means. I further indicated a number of unlawful means, including more additional false statements, including statements that were planned to be made to tax authorities. I also noted the federal election law cap on contribution limits.

Speaker 6 (08:22):

But why weren’t there those crimes charged? Why wasn’t he charged with those crimes?

DA Alvin Bragg (08:28):

Well, I’m not going to go into our deliberate process on what was brought. The charges that were brought were the ones that were brought, the evidence and the law is the basis for those decisions.

Speaker 4 (08:35):

[inaudible 00:08:38].

Speaker 7 (08:38):

Hi. Mr. DA, you had expressed a year ago that you had some reservations about the case’s readiness. Can you talk to us about what were some of the questions in your mind that needed to be answered in order to bring a case with this magnitude?

DA Alvin Bragg (08:53):

I’m not going to go chapter and verse into any thinking. What I will say is, I believe the time period you’re talking about, I’d been in office for a couple of months. The investigation in my view was not concluded into the conduct in particular that is the basis for the charges today. Since that time, we’ve had more evidence made available to the office and opportunity to meet with additional witnesses. So as I said earlier, I’ve been doing this for 24 years. I don’t bring cases prior to a thorough and rigorous investigation. Now having done so, the case has been brought.

Speaker 4 (09:28):


Garrett Haake (09:31):

Mr. Bragg, Garrett Haake, NBC News. Your predecessor took a hard look at this case and decided not to charge it. Federal prosecutors took a hard look at this case and decided not to charge it. Do you believe you have new evidence that led you to decide to charge this or why now?

DA Alvin Bragg (09:45):

Well, as I just mentioned, we have had available to the office additional evidence that was not in the office’s possession prior to my time here. And as to part of your question about the federal, we have a distinct and strong, I would say profound independent interest in New York State. This is the business capital of the world. We regularly do cases involving false business statements. The bedrock, in fact, the basis for business integrity and a well-functioning business marketplace is true and accurate record keeping. That’s the charge that’s brought here. Falsifying New York State business records.

Speaker 4 (10:27):

We’re going to say two more. [inaudible 00:10:28].

Speaker 12 (10:30):

Thank you. DA Bragg, I’m just going to read back one line from your statement of facts: “The participants also took steps that mischaracterized for tax purposes the true nature of payments in furtherance of the scheme.” Do you allege former President Trump was one of the participants who mischaracterized the payments for tax purposes?

DA Alvin Bragg (10:46):

I’m not going to go beyond the plain language statement. The facts, I think, speaks for itself.

Speaker 4 (10:49):

[inaudible 00:10:52].

Speaker 13 (10:51):

DA Bragg, can you please comment on the strength of the evidence that Trump personally violated state election laws, including actions that are charged in the indictment?

DA Alvin Bragg (11:04):

So the charge is falsifying business records. The charge requires, as I specified, criminal conduct that was concealed. One of the concealed crimes we allege is New York State election law. I sort of went through in our statement of facts I think many of you have it in front of you, goes through things including text messages, emails, contemporaneous phone records, multiple witnesses. All of that will be, as you saw in the fall, borne out in a public courtroom in downtown Manhattan.

Speaker 3 (11:41):

Our last question is Jonah.

Jonah (11:42):

DA Bragg, the charges related to the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, the release from your office also mentions another woman, Karen McDougal, as well as a doorman. Can you comment on how those players are related to the charges you’ve brought or to the case overall?

DA Alvin Bragg (11:59):

I’m glad you put your finger on that because it’s not just about one payment. It is 34 false statements and business records that were concealing criminal conduct. And the earlier question about New York State election law, when I talked about conspiracy to promote a candidacy by unlawful means, those unlawful means we allege include the conduct set forth in the statement of facts, which is additional false statements, separate apart from the charge ones in AMI documents, planned false statements to tasking authorities. It is not just that one $30,000 wire payment. Thanks so much.

Speaker 14 (12:45):

Mr. Bragg, at what point do you think a back order is necessary?

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