Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s decision to bring criminal charges against former President Donald Trump makes good on the Democratic prosecutor’s campaign boast that he is tough on Mr. Trump.
Mr. Bragg put his tough-on-Trump bonafides front and center as he faced off against other Democratic contenders in the 2021 race to become the top prosecutor in one of the country’s most liberal-leaning cities.
Throughout his campaign, Mr. Bragg boasted about his work overseeing the lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation while serving as the New York State chief deputy attorney general from 2017 to 2018.
That case resulted in a judge ordering Mr. Trump to pay $2 million in damages and led to the foundation being shut down over allegations of misused funds.
Mr. Bragg cited the case in a December 2020 campaign forum as he sparred with his Democratic contenders for the Manhattan district attorney’s race.
“I have investigated Trump and his children and held them accountable for their misconduct with the Trump Foundation,” he said. “I know how to follow the facts and hold people in power accountable.”
The incumbent district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., had already begun subpoenaing years of Mr. Trump’s financial records and was investigating possible financial fraud involving the Trump Organization by the time the race kicked off.
The New York Times noted that Mr. Bragg frequently reminded New Yorkers that he had sued Mr. Trump and his administration “more than a hundred times” in a bid to win over voters.
Democratic rival Tali Farhadian Weinstein accused Mr. Bragg of having a political bone to pick with Mr. Trump. A spokesperson for Ms. Weinstein told the newspaper that Mr. Bragg attacked Mr. Trump “for political advantage every chance he gets.”
At the time, Mr. Bragg attempted to head off complaints that he was running a campaign to target Mr. Trump by saying he was running on his record.
“It is a fact that I have sued Trump more than a hundred times,” Mr. Bragg said. “I can’t change that fact, nor would I. That was important work. That’s separate from anything that the D.A.’s office may be looking at now.”
In April 2021, Mr. Bragg returned to his experience overseeing cases against Mr. Trump as a key selling point to voters, telling The Wall Street Journal: “I certainly have more experience with [Mr. Trump] than most people in the world.”
The tough-on-Trump approach caught the attention of voters and campaign financiers including the Color Of Change PAC, a racial justice group backed by liberal mega-donor George Soros who has poured money into district attorneys races throughout the country.
Soon after taking office in January 2022, Mr. Bragg was forced to defend his campaign rhetoric after he declined to charge Mr. Trump in the Trump Organization case he inherited from his predecessor.
The two prosecutors leading the investigation into Mr. Trump’s business practices abruptly resigned because of Mr. Bragg’s unwillingness to indict the former president, according to the book “People vs. Donald Trump” by one of the former prosecutors, Mark Pomerantz.
That case originally included the allegations that Mr. Trump had paid hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign.
Mr. Bragg and his team had concerns about the strength of the evidence and the credibility of a key witness in the hush money investigation, according to Mr. Pomerantz’s book. It sparked fury among Democrats and the media, and the prosecution over falsifying records suddenly appeared to pick up steam.
In April 2022, Mr. Bragg assured Manhattanites that he had not gone soft on Mr. Trump.
“Indeed, litigation involving the former president himself is not foreign to me,” Mr. Bragg said in a statement. “As the Chief Deputy at the New York State Attorney General’s Office, I oversaw the successful litigation against the former president, his family, and the Trump Foundation.”
Republicans have accused Mr. Bragg of pursuing a politically-driven crusade against Mr. Trump.
Congressional Republicans demanded testimony from members of Mr. Bragg’s office earlier this month after Mr. Trump announced his impending indictment. Other Republicans also demanded that Mr. Bragg appear before Congress.
“I think we should hear Alvin Bragg testify before Congress under oath about his vision and the fact that this is wildly political and the fact that this was not pursued by federal courts and the fact that the Department of Justice passed on this,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, New York Republican.
On Thursday, a grand jury convened by Mr. Bragg voted to indict Mr. Trump.
The indictment remains under seal. New York judges typically keep charges under seal until a defendant makes an initial appearance in court.
A spokesperson Mr. Bragg said the prosecutor’s office “contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.’s Office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal.”
The indictment will begin a legal process that will likely require Mr. Trump to go to New York to face the charges.
Mr. Trump, the leading candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, called the indictment “political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history.”
“Never before in our nation’s history has this been done,” Mr. Trump said. “The Democrats have cheated countless times over the decades, including spying on my campaign, but weaponizing our justice system to punish a political opponent, who just so happens to be a President of the United States and by far the leading Republican candidate for President, has never happened before. Ever.”
• Jeff Mordock and Dave Boyer contributed to this story.