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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Manhattan DA leading Trump case says office won’t be intimidated

    Former President Donald J. Trump watches the NCAA Wrestling Championships, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Tulsa, Okla. Trump’s calls for protests ahead of his anticipated indictment in New York have generated mostly muted reactions from supporters, with even some of his most ardent loyalists dismissing the idea as a waste of time or a law enforcement trap. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
    Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg participates in a news conference in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. Bragg is standing firm against former President Donald Trump’s increasingly hostile rhetoric, telling his staff that the office won’t be intimidated or deterred as it nears a decision on charging the former president. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

    NEW YORK (AP) — Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is standing firm against Donald Trump’s increasingly hostile rhetoric, telling his staff that the office won’t be intimidated or deterred as it nears a decision on charging the former president.

    Bragg sent an internal memo late Saturday hours after Trump unleashed a three-part, all-caps social media post in which he said he could be arrested in the coming days, criticized the district attorney and encouraged his supporters to protest and “TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”

    Bragg, whose office has been calling witnesses to a grand jury investigating hush money paid on Trump’s behalf during his 2016 campaign, did not mention the Republican by name, but made it clear that’s who he was writing about. The memo came as law enforcement officials in New York City are making security preparations for the possibility Trump is charged and appears in court in Manhattan.

    “We do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York,” Bragg wrote, referring to “press attention and public comments” regarding an ongoing investigation by his office.

    As Bragg sought to assuage concerns about potential threats, posts about protests began popping up online, including a rally on Monday against Bragg organized by the New York Young Republican Club.

    Law enforcement officials in New York are also closely monitoring online chatter warning of protests and violence if Trump is arrested, four law enforcement officials told The Associated Press. The threats that law enforcement agents are tracking vary in specificity and credibility, the officials said. Mainly posted online and in chat groups, the messages have included calls for armed protesters to block law enforcement officers and attempt to stop any potential arrest, the officials said.

    The law enforcement officials are also discussing a multitude of security plans for lower Manhattan in the event Trump is indicted. Those plans — which the officials described as preliminary — include the potential for closing down several streets around the Manhattan criminal courthouse and blocking streets with large trucks, similar to security protocols in place for major events and parades in New York.

    The officials could not discuss details of the security plans publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

    Bragg, a Democrat, inherited the yearslong Trump investigation when he took office in January 2022 and quickly faced criticism — not from Trump, but from holdover prosecutors for backing away from his predecessor’s plans to charge the former president with business-related fraud.

    Bragg rebounded with convictions for Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, and his longtime finance chief for an unrelated tax fraud scheme before pivoting to what he’s called the probe’s “next chapter” — bringing fresh scrutiny to the hush money payments, which have been the subject of repeated federal and state-level inquiries over the last six years.

    Now, as that probe nears its denouement, Bragg is seeking to reassure his 1,600 employees in the face of increasing hostility from Trump and his supporters.

    In his memo Saturday night, he wrote that the office is working with court officers and New York City police to ensure they are safe and that “any specific or credible threats against the office” are investigated.

    The memo and Trump’s earlier social media postings underscored the contrast in styles between Bragg and Trump — two native New Yorkers, but from different eras, neighborhoods and backgrounds, and with exceedingly disparate personas.

    Bragg, an old-school lawyer who prefers to let the work speak for itself, has declined to comment publicly about the status of the hush-money investigation or Trump’s bombastic missives. His office has also declined comment.

    There has been no public announcement of a time frame for a decision on charging Trump and at least one additional witness is expected to testify, likely Monday, further indicating that no vote to indict has yet been taken.

    In a post Sunday, Trump lambasted Bragg — Manhattan’s first Black district attorney — as a “Racist in Reverse," and accused him, without evidence, of taking orders from the Justice Department and being a pawn for billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, who supported Bragg’s campaign through the Color Of Change PAC.

    Bragg, 49, came into office 15 months ago amid what he calls a “perfect storm” of rising crime and political pressure, along with internal strife he was facing over the direction of the Trump investigation.

    A Harvard-educated former federal prosecutor, chief deputy state attorney general and civil rights lawyer, Bragg came equipped with legal and management credentials, but not much experience navigating New York City politics.

    His courtroom bona fides include prosecuting a rogue FBI agent and overseeing lawsuits against Trump while a high-ranking official at the state attorney general’s office. His life experience includes growing up in Harlem during the 1980s crack cocaine epidemic and being held at gunpoint six times — three times by police.

    But shortly after taking office, Republicans and some centrist Democrats were labeling Bragg soft on crime for a “Day One” memo he sent to staff outlining his philosophy on prosecuting — or not prosecuting — certain offenses. Among other things, it said the DA would no longer prosecute some low-level misdemeanor crimes, including subway fare evasion and marijuana possession.

    Former U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican, campaigned for governor last year partly on a promise to remove the independently elected Bragg from office. The vitriol against Bragg became so rancid — and sometimes racist — friends worried for his safety.

    The New York Post put Bragg on its front page 13 times in his first year in office, including five times in his first month, with derisive headlines like “Happy 2022, Criminals!” and “‘Justice’ Gone Mad.”

    It became routine for a Post photographer to pepper Bragg with questions when he arrived at the D.A.’s office each morning, when he often ignored. The truth was: while some types of crime increased in Manhattan in 2022, compared to the previous year, there were fewer murders and shootings.

    Inside the district attorney’s office, Bragg faced dissent over the direction of the Trump investigation — grievances aired anew last month in a book by a former prosecutor, Mark Pomerantz.

    In 2021, Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., authorized Pomerantz and another top deputy, Carey Dunne, to seek an indictment on charges that Trump exaggerated the worth of his assets in financial statements he gave to lenders. Vance left office before the case was finished, leaving the decision about charges to Bragg.

    Bragg decided not to proceed immediately, citing concerns about the strength of the case. In a recent statement, he said: “Pomerantz’s plane wasn’t ready for takeoff.”

    The delay prompted Pomerantz and Dunne to resign, leading to some speculation that Bragg had given up on pursuing a case against Trump.

    Bragg refuted that in a rare public statement last April, writing: “In the long and proud tradition of white-collar prosecutions at the Manhattan D.A.’s Office, we are investigating thoroughly and following the facts without fear or favor.”


    Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.

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