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There is no love lost between former national security adviser John Bolton and former President Donald Trump, yet Bolton still cannot bring himself to pretend that Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has a strong case on his hands.
Bolton went on CNN Tuesday to discuss the indictment within hours of fellow Trump critic and U.S. Senator for Utah Mitt Romney stating, "The New York prosecutor has stretched to reach felony criminal charges in order to fit a political agenda."
Having previously claimed that Trump "does not represent the Republican cause that I want to back," Bolton indicated he was vexed by the toothlessness of the indictment.
"Speaking as someone who very strongly does not want Donald Trump to get the Republican presidential nomination, I'm extraordinarily distressed by this document," Bolton told CNN host Jake Tapper. "I think this is even weaker than I feared it would be. And I think it's easily subject to being dismissed or a quick acquittal for Trump."
Trump pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 34 counts of falsifying business records after noting online that the judge in the then-upcoming arraignment was "highly partisan" and hailed from a family of "Trump haters."
"Going back to the days when I represented Jim Buckley and [Eugene] McCarthy and the constitutional challenge to the underlying federal statute here, passed in 1974, I can say there is no basis in the statutory language to say that Trump's behavior forms either a contribution or an expenditure under federal law: the two key definitions at issue here," said Bolton.
Bolton was referencing his work on the lawsuit Buckley v. Valeo in the 1970s, which resulted in a 1976 Supreme Court decision that struck down limits on campaign finance expenditures and self-funding by affluent candidates, reported the Intercept.
In his memoir, "Surrender Is Not an Option," Bolton wrote, "Everyone knew the decision in Buckley v. Valeo could determine the election in 1976, not to mention the future shape of American politics."
It is that shape he reckons Bragg is now trying to redefine.
"If it did," Bolton told Tapper, "it would mean that every single expenditure a candidate made could be taken to have something to do with his campaign."
Accordingly, something as innocuous as a candidate's purchase of a comb could be treated as problematic.
"If you can construe the statute to cover this behavior, then I think it violates the First Amendment because you're deeply in the territory that makes this ... federal statute too vague for enforcement," Bolton added.
As for suggestions that New York election law may be at issue, Bolton said it doesn't matter: "The Federal Election Campaign Act absolutely pre-empts any state or local law to the contrary."
Bolton suggested that compounding Bragg's difficulty of securing a conviction is the fact that Trump's defense need only show "reasonable doubt that the intent was to affect federal election. And I can come up with a very plausible reason why a person would have the intent of paying these hush-money payments: He doesn't want his wife to find out about it."
While Bolton did not appear to see a real crime among all the charges, he noted that the prosecutor pressing the case first campaigned "to get Donald Trump."
Upon learning of Bragg's expressed intention of pursuing a political persecution of Trump long before allegedly finding evidence of guilt, Bolton said, "My first thought was Lavrenty Beria, the former head of the NKVD in Soviet times, who once said to Joe Stalin, 'You show me the man, I'll show you the crime.'"
Beria served as director of the Soviet secret police force that evolved to become the KGB. Historian Nikita Petrov told the Daily Beast that "Beria should be remembered for his crimes, for ordering mass deportations of peoples from the Northern Caucasus, executions of Polish prisoners. He was a mini-Stalin in the Caucasus, gave orders to beat people before executions."
Reiterating that he opposes Trump's ambition to resume power, Bolton stressed that Bragg's effort feeds into the former president's narrative to such an extent that the prosecutor may ultimately be remembered as "Donald Trump's greatest political supporter."
\u201c\u201cI\u2019m extraordinarily distressed by this document," former Trump official John Bolton weighs in on former President Trump's indictment with CNN's @jaketapper.\u00a0Watch:\u201d— CNN (@CNN) 1680649671
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Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.