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Trump lawyer spars with host over ex-Biden DOJ official tapped in New York hush-money case

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Former President Trump’s attorney, Will Scharf, on Sunday previewed the planned appeal of Trump’s criminal conviction, and also hammered on the U.S. legal system’s “weaponization,” citing how a former official for the Department of Justice under the Biden administration helped Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg prosecute the criminal case against the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. 

Scharf, a member of Trump’s legal team who is also running for Missouri attorney general, said in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” that the former president will comply with the pre-sentencing investigation in the meantime before appealing his conviction on 34 counts in the trial where Trump was accused of falsifying business records to hide payments to porn star Stormy Daniels to influence the 2016 election. 

The lawyer sparred with ABC host George Stephanopoulos over the motivations of the case itself, noting how prosecutor Matthew Colangelo stood directly over Bragg’s shoulder as the Manhattan DA announced the guilty verdicts at a press conference on Thursday. 

“I vehemently disagree that the district attorney in New York was not politically motivated here, and I vehemently disagree that President Biden and his political allies aren’t up to their necks in this prosecution. I think the fact that the Biden campaign…” Scharf said, before Stephanopoulos interjected. 

TRUMP SUPPORTERS FLIP AMERICAN FLAG UPSIDE DOWN IN PROTEST OF PERCEIVED WEAPONIZATION OF LEGAL SYSTEM

“There’s no evidence here of that. Sir, there’s no – there’s not – I’m not going to let you continue to say that. There’s just zero evidence of that,” Stephanopoulos claimed. 

“Well, how about the fact that Matthew Colangelo was standing – was standing over Alvin Bragg’s shoulder when – when he announced this verdict,” Scharf said. “I mean, Colangelo was the number three official in the Biden Department of Justice who suddenly disappears and shows up as an assistant district attorney, right as Trump’s case in New York starts to proceed. You want to talk about political…” 

“After the decision was made there,” the host interjected, but Scharf pressed on. 

“You want to talk about political coordination, George, it’s right there in front of you,” the lawyer said. 

“This has nothing to do – this has nothing to do – no, it’s not. This has nothing to do with President Biden. Do you want to answer the question about the sentencing process or not?” Stephanopoulos said. 

“I completely disagree that this has nothing to do with President Biden,” Scharf said. “With respect to sentencing, as I said before, we’re going to vigorously challenge this case on appeal. I don’t think President Trump is going to end up being subject to any sentence whatsoever. And we look forward to getting this case into the – into the next court and taking this again all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary to vindicate President Trump’s rights.”

Scharf deemed the hush-money ordeal a “zombie case” in New York that sat for years and could have been brought at any point after 2020. “And then suddenly, when President Trump announced his campaign for president, it was dusted off, rushed in front of a grand jury and then rushed into court,” the lawyer said earlier in the interview. “You want to talk about the politicization of the legal system, I mean this is exhibit A. It’s absolutely unprecedented in American history. It’s not the way that our campaigns are supposed to be run. We contest elections at the ballot box, not in the courts in this country.”

Trump and Todd Blanche address the media after hush-money guilty verdict

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On Friday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, insisted Bragg and Colangelo appear for a June hearing on the “weaponization of the federal government” and “the unprecedented political prosecution” of Trump. Biden, as president, is not supposed to have authority over the state courts in New York, but Republicans allege Biden drove the prosecution of a political opponent during an election year. 

Trump’s legal team had repeatedly asked that Judge Juan M. Merchan recuse himself, citing a potential conflict of interest given he donated to Biden’s campaign and given that Merchan’s daughter, as the president of Authentic Campaigns – a group that represents Democrat politicians and political action committees – was fundraising off of the hush-money case. 

On appeal, Scharf said Trump’s legal team will again challenge Merchan’s failure to recuse on appeal despite “a clear due process violation” and also challenge aspects of the jury instructions themselves. 

Merchan, Trump

“I think when you look at the jury instructions here, Judge Merchan essentially – I wouldn’t say rigged the deliberations but certainly steered the jury toward the verdict that he clearly wanted,” he said. 

“I think some of Judge Merchan’s evidentiary decisions really throughout the conduct of this trial were, frankly, astounding,” Scharf continued. “Not allowing Brad Smith to testify the way that he wanted. This is one of the world’s leading experts on federal election law. Severely limiting the scope of examination of Robert Costello, who I believe had absolutely damning information about the prosecution’s case. On decision after decision after decision, Judge Merchan, I think, departed from normal courtroom procedure, normal courtroom practice, to essentially stack the deck against President Trump.”

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Stephanopoulos suggested that Trump’s criticisms of Merchan and Bragg could complicate the sentencing process, but Scharf insisted Trump had every right to speak out, especially after the judge’s gag order. 

“I think it’s really important to note that President Trump is running for president of the United States of America. And he has an absolute constitutional right to comment on matters of public importance. And, unfortunately, this trial, which was, I believe, unjustly inserted into the presidential election cycle, is a matter of tremendous public importance,” Scharf said. “The weaponization of our legal system, the politicization of prosecution, these are all things that President Trump absolutely has to comment on. I think the fact that he labored under a gag order for as long as he did was manifestly unjust.” 

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