Who is Alvin Bragg? District attorney who prosecuted Trump says he was just doing his job


NEW YORK (AP) — When Alvin Bragg took office as Manhattan district attorney in 2022, he stunned the public and his own staff by pausing an investigation into former President Donald Trump that appeared to be hurtling toward an indictment.

Two top prosecutors were so upset with the decision, they quit. One called Bragg’s hesitation to bring a case against Trump “a grave failure of justice.”

Now, Bragg has cemented his place in history as the first prosecutor to win a criminal conviction of a former U.S. president.

Speaking after the verdict Thursday, Bragg summed up his role by saying, simply, “I did my job.”

“Our job is to follow the facts and the law without fear or favor, and that’s exactly what we did here,” he told reporters.

Trump and his supporters insist Bragg, a Democrat, had a vendetta against the former president and presumptive Republican nominee. He has relentlessly accused Bragg of manufacturing a baseless case for political reasons.

Here’s a look at Bragg’s background, his time in office and his history regarding Trump.

A child of Harlem

Bragg, 50, grew up in Harlem when New York City struggled with high crime. He once had a knife held to his throat and has talked about being held at gunpoint six times while growing up, including three times by police officers.

When he was 15, one officer stuck a gun in his face and wrongly accused him of being a drug dealer as the teen walked to buy groceries for his father. Bragg filed a complaint over the incident.

Bragg went on to graduate from Harvard Law School. He began his career as a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer, went on to the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan and then worked at the New York attorney general’s office, where he had his first legal tussles with Trump.

Suing Trump

Bragg was a senior lawyer in the state attorney general’s office in 2018, when it was engaged in multiple battles with Trump, related both to his White House policies and his stewardship of his private charitable foundation. Bragg directly oversaw a lawsuit against the foundation. Trump settled, agreeing to the foundation’s dissolution, and a judge fined him $2 million.

Bragg left the attorney general’s office in late 2018 and became a professor at New York Law School.

Campaign for district attorney

Bragg ran for Manhattan district attorney in 2021, campaigning on a platform of “justice and public safety” in a crowded Democratic primary.

In some ways, he was the perfect candidate for predominantly Democratic Manhattan a year after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd had started a national reckoning with how the criminal justice system has treated Black people and others of color. Bragg, who is Black, had worked as a prosecutor but had personal experience with over-policing of the city’s Black community.

He was also, he suggested at the time, well positioned to take over the criminal investigation into Trump and his company from Cyrus Vance Jr., the outgoing DA.

During the race, Bragg was asked repeatedly how he would handle the probe. His standard answer was to cite his work on Trump-related lawsuits while he was in the attorney general’s office, and his willingness to hold powerful figures accountable.

“I don’t know where this investigation will go. I don’t want to prejudge it. But, these types of investigations — white-collar investigations — I’ve been involved with for years, both doing them myself and also supervising them,” Bragg told The Associated Press at the time.

Vance’s investigation was focused then on whether Trump had committed fraud by lying about the value of his assets on financial statements given to banks and others.

After winning the primary, Bragg cruised to victory in the general election.

Clashes over crime

Bragg became Manhattan’s first Black district attorney in January of 2022. He was challenged over his approach to the job nearly from the start.

One of his first steps was a memo that, among other things, instructed prosecutors not to seek jail time for some low-level offenses, such as minor marijuana possession and sale (the state later legalized such possession) and to charge some armed robberies in commercial settings as misdemeanor petit larcenies.

Police leaders, conservative media and some centrist Democrats accused him of being soft on criminals during a pandemic-era crime spike. Bragg’s staff said the memo had been mischaracterized, but his office later walked back portions of the directive.

During the 2022 governor’s race, Republican candidate Lee Zeldin promised that, if elected, he would try to remove Bragg from office.

Bragg faced criticism again this year when he declined to seek pretrial detention for some men accused of brawling with police officers in Times Square.

The decision drew criticism from Gov. Kathy Hochul, a fellow Democrat. Bragg defended himself, telling reporters, “the only thing worse than failing to bring perpetrators to justice would be to ensnare innocent people in the criminal justice system.”

His investigators later determined that several men initially arrested played only a minor role in the fight or weren’t even there.

Investigating Trump

Bragg’s most surprising early move as district attorney was to halt the investigation into whether Trump had lied on financial statements.

The lead prosecutor on that probe, Mark Pomerantz, resigned in anger.

But the investigation wasn’t over. It was just changing.

In 2022, Bragg’s office persuaded the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, to plead guilty to evading taxes on fringe benefits, including a luxury car and rent-free apartment. Later that year, the DA’s office won a conviction of Trump’s company on similar tax charges.

Emboldened by those victories, Bragg convened another grand jury, which indicted Trump in April of 2023 on charges that he falsified records at his company to conceal a scheme to pay hush money to keep a sex scandal from damaging his run for president in 2016. Trump denied any wrongdoing.

A jury convicted Trump on those charges Thursday.

Trump’s attacks on Bragg

Trump and his allies have slammed Bragg as a partisan in the guise of a prosecutor, claiming he brought the case solely to damage Trump’s chances of regaining the White House.

Trump has called Bragg an “animal” and a “degenerate psychopath,” once made a social media post of himself holding a baseball bat next to a picture of Bragg, and described him Friday as “a failed D.A.”

He has shrugged off Trump’s accusations.

“Many voices out there,” Bragg said Thursday. “The only voice that matters is the voice of the jury. And the jury has spoken.”

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