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How Trump’s team plans to launch ‘smear campaign’ against Manhattan DA’s office over hush money probe

Trump’s campaign will seek to claim that any charges are the work of a politically-motivated attack by the Democratic Party – with a particular focus on aiming to tie DA Alvin Bragg to President Joe Biden, says report

Rachel Sharp
Friday 17 March 2023 13:59 GMT
Trump lawyer says ex-president lied about Stormy Daniels payoff to avoid breaching agreement

Donald Trump’s camp is said to be planning to launch a smear campaign against the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in response to a potential looming criminal indictment against the former president.

Two of Mr Trump’s political allies told The New York Times that his campaign is preparing for a “political war” if or when DA Alvin Bragg’s office indicts the former president over the hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

This attack will focus on a push to claim that charges are merely the work of a politically-motivated attack by the Democratic Party – with a particular focus on aiming to tie Mr Bragg to President Joe Biden, the sources said.

To prepare, the insiders said Mr Trump’s campaign has been bringing more staff members on board and compiling a database of anyone – including members of Congress, media figures and legal experts – who has so far cast doubts on the strength of the case.

The revelation comes as Mr Trump could soon become the first former president in American history to face criminal charges.

Manhattan prosecutors have been investigating whether Mr Trump falsified the Trump Organization’s business records when his former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen made a payment of $130,0000 to Ms Daniels days before the 2016 election.

Prosecutors claim that the money was used to silence Ms Daniels about an alleged affair she had with Mr Trump. Mr Trump has long denied having an affair with the adult film star.

This week, the investigation ramped up even further with Ms Daniels and Mr Cohen both appearing before the grand jury to give testimony in the investigation.

DA Bragg’s office also invited Mr Trump to testify this week – an invitation he unsurprisingly turned down.

While it was an invitation he was unlikely to accept, it sent the clearest signal to date that he could be criminally indicted for his role in the payments.

Under New York law, a person has a right to appear before a grand jury before a prosecutor asks the grand jury to indict them on charges.

Mr Trump’s camp appears to have already begun to wage its campaign against the DA’s office with his attorney Joe Tacopina going on a media blitz this week where he slammed the probe and insisted his client was innocent of any crimes.

In one particularly heated exchange, Mr Tacopina launched across the table to grab papers from an MSNBC host during an on-air interview.

Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina reached for MSNBC host’s documents live on air (Screenshot / MSNBC)

On Thursday, Mr Trump’s campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung then released a statement slamming DA Bragg’s office over what they claim is a “witch hunt” against the one-term president.

“President Donald J. Trump is completely innocent, he did nothing wrong, and even the biggest, most Radical Left Democrats are making that clear,” said Mr Cheung.

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“From Russia, Russia, Russia, to the Mueller Hoax, to Impeachment Hoaxes 1 and 2, and even the Unlawful Mar-a-Lago Raid, Democrats have investigated and attacked President Trump since before he was elected – and they’ve failed every time.”

Mr Trump’s campaign went on to claim that DA Bragg is “making a political donation of a different kind to Joe Biden”.

“Americans will not tolerate Radical Left Democrats turning our justice system into an injustice system to influence a presidential election,” the statement reads.

“Our country is not going to let this happen.”

While Mr Trump has repeatedly attacked the New York investigation on his Truth Social platform, the lengthy official statement suggests that his camp is growing increasingly concerned that a criminal indictment may be just around the corner.

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels (AP)

It also appears to be the start of the “political war” Mr Trump’s allies have spoken of.

The two allies told The New York Times that the plan is to try to “portray any charges as part of a coordinated offensive by the Democratic Party against Mr Trump”.

Other than Mr Bragg’s political party, it is unclear how they intend to push this claim.

Other political allies also told the paper that Mr Trump’s team will be watching how his Republican rivals such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis respond to an indictment – should it transpire.

The Manhattan investigation is only one of the investigations Mr Trump is currently facing.

Others include investigations into his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the discovery of a trove of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home.

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