Ex-Elections Official Lays Out How Trump Trial Judge Who Restricted His Planned Testimony Gave Alvin Bragg A Leg Up

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Former commissioner on the Federal Election Commission Brad Smith said Monday night that the judge overseeing Trump’s trial has shown “very evident” bias in favor of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Smith, who Trump’s defense team intended to call as a witness, announced that Merchan’s heavy restrictions on his planned testimony caused the defense to decide not to call him to the stand at all. Merchan ruled that Smith could not interpret campaign finance law or testify to whether or not the $130,000 payment Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election was a violation.

“While judge wouldn’t let me testify on meaning of law, he allowed Michael Cohen to go on at length about whether and how his activity violated FECA,” Smith said. “So effectively, the jury got its instructions on FECA from Michael Cohen!” (RELATED: Judge In Alvin Bragg Trial Has A Not-So Subtle Habit Of Putting His Thumb On The Scale For The Prosecution)

“The judge’s bias is very evident,” he continued.

Merchan ruled in March that Smith could only testify on the background of the FEC, its structure and function, the laws it enforces and general definitions for terms like “campaign contribution.”

Clarifying his ruling Monday morning, Merchan said the defense could still call Smith, but maintained limits restricting him to “general definitions and terms,” according to Politico.

Trump’s team had wanted Smith to testify that the FEC does not consider expenses that exist whether or not an individual is a candidate as campaign expenses. (RELATED: ‘Kangaroo Court’: Denying Mistrial Over Stormy Daniels’ Testimony Is One Of Many Mistakes By Judge, Legal Experts Say)

“There is no question this would result in a battle of the experts, which will only serve to confuse, and not assist, the jury,” Merchan said Monday, per Politico.

The prosecution and defense will argue before Merchan Tuesday on their proposed jury instructions, which will address how the jury should interpret the law.

Trump was indicted with 34 felony counts for allegedly falsifying business records to reimburse his former attorney Michael Cohen for a $130,000 nondisclosure agreement payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels in the lead up to the 2016 election. To charge the case as a felony and avoid the expired statute of limitations on the misdemeanor, Bragg had to allege this was done to conceal another crime, which is where federal campaign finance law becomes important.

Bragg’s team argued during opening statements that the Daniels payment was part of a broader conspiracy to influence the 2016 election. Under New York Election Law § 17-152, it is a misdemeanor for any two or more people to “conspire” to influence an election using “unlawful means.”

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