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Who is Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan DA whose probe led to a Trump indictment?

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. (Jeenah Moon for The Washington Post)
7 min

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg will probably forever be known as the prosecutor who became the first person to indict a sitting or former U.S. president: Donald Trump.

Bragg (D) led the effort to charge Trump — in a probe reviving a “zombie case” because it hung around so long without charges — that culminated Tuesday in the former president pleading not guilty to 34 felony charges related to hush money payments to a former adult-film actress alleged to have had an affair with Trump. (The former president denies the affair.)

[Read the full indictment of former president Donald Trump]

In doing so, Bragg tackled a historic and polarizing case destined to become a defining part of his tenure. He leaned into the unprecedented nature of the proceedings in a Tuesday news conference after Trump’s arraignment in a Lower Manhattan courtroom.

“Everyone stands equal before the law. No amount of money and no amount of power changes that enduring American principle," he said.

[Read the prosecution’s statement of facts]

Here’s what to know about the Manhattan prosecutor.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg outlined the case against former president Donald Trump on April 4, detailing 34 felony counts. (Video: The Washington Post)

Who is Alvin Bragg, and when was he elected as Manhattan district attorney?

Bragg, a Democrat, was elected as the 37th Manhattan district attorney in November 2021. He is also the office’s first Black district attorney.

Bragg, 49, succeeded District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and was sworn in at the beginning of 2022. He is only the fourth person elected to the position in 80 years. Before assuming his role, the Harvard-educated Bragg served as a federal prosecutor and official in the New York Attorney General’s Office.

Why is he investigating Donald Trump?

Bragg inherited from Vance the investigation into claims that Trump was involved in paying adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. The case centers on a $130,000 payment from Michael Cohen, a former Trump attorney and fixer, to Daniels, to keep her from publicizing allegations that she and Trump had an affair years earlier. The charges relate to whether Trump falsified business records while reimbursing Cohen. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges and says he did not have an affair with Daniels.

The prosecutor, the ex-president and the ‘zombie’ case that came back to life

How did this case start?

It remains unclear why Bragg and his office seemingly pivoted from a probe that was centered on Trump’s alleged practice of overvaluing his assets to the hush money issue that now appears to be the grand jury’s focus. Within Bragg’s office, this matter had been known in the past as the “zombie” case.

The case gained some momentum this year after Bragg’s office convened a new grand jury in January to evaluate the issue. Grand jury proceedings are generally kept secret, so it remains unknown precisely what has unfolded before the panel.

Otherwise, what is Bragg’s job as Manhattan DA?

Bragg is responsible for most criminal prosecutions with a large staff and budget. He is one of five elected district attorneys in New York City — one for each of its boroughs. His office says he has restructured the role to “focus more resources on prosecuting serious violent crimes,” as well as “protecting everyday New Yorkers from abuses by the powerful.”

A former white-collar prosecutor, Bragg oversaw the indictment of onetime Trump confidant Stephen K. Bannon on charges including money laundering and fraud. He also secured the conviction of Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, who was sentenced to five months in jail in connection with a long-running tax-evasion scheme.

In December, his office also won a conviction that resulted in $1.6 million in fines for the Trump Organization and the Trump Payroll Corp. — the maximum allowed by law — for defrauding tax authorities. With a potential indictment looming for Trump, Bragg told his staff in an email last week that he would protect them against any threats. “We do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York,” he wrote.

A president has never been indicted. But one was arrested.

What have Trump and his allies said about Bragg’s investigation?

Trump has long denied impropriety in the hush money payment to Daniels and recently called on his supporters to rally against what he claimed would be his imminent arrest in Bragg’s probe. Posting to his Truth Social platform earlier this month, Trump called on followers to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”

Donald Trump said he expects to be arrested. What would happen next?

After Trump’s incorrect prediction that he would be arrested just days after his post, he then highlighted the possibility that night that he would not be indicted in the case. He shared on Truth Social a Fox News headline reading: “Sources say there’s chance DA may choose not to charge Trump as rumors swirl.” He insisted there was “NO CRIME, NO AFFAIR, NO BOOKKEEPING ERROR OR MISDEMEANOR, NO ‘NOTHING.’”

Responding to the indictment on Thursday, Trump issued another statement on Truth Social, calling it “Political Persecution and Election Interference.”

Trump, a Republican, has also sought to disparage Bragg by calling him “Soros-backed,” referring to liberal philanthropist George Soros — and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a likely 2024 opponent, also used the term to refer to the prosecutor. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump has unpacked the context of this critique and the language — and why it’s a useful shorthand for several of the right’s favorite targets. The Anti-Defamation League has outlined ways in which rhetoric that targets Soros, who is Jewish, often intermingles with antisemitism.

What it means to be ‘Soros-backed’

While House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urged people not to follow Trump’s call to protest, but slammed the investigation, saying Bragg was unfairly targeting the former president. “Lawyer after lawyer will tell you this is the weakest case out there, trying to make a misdemeanor a felony,” McCarthy said during a news conference earlier this month. .

Stormy, Trump and more: The names to know in historic hush-money case

What are some of Bragg’s campaign promises?

During his 2021 campaign, Bragg positioned himself as a liberal district attorney. He has argued that by charging fewer crimes and reducing jail populations, the government can promote alternatives to incarceration, and safety in cities will follow.

He campaigned to lower gun violence, protect survivors of domestic abuse and not prosecute some low-level misdemeanors, such as marijuana use and jumping turnstiles. However, he faced backlash when he tried to make it a misdemeanor to rob a business with a gun in some cases, forcing him to pull back on that proposal.

Bragg has also said that he wants to change the culture of the district attorney’s office. As a former civil rights attorney who represented Eric Garner’s mother as she sought accountability for her son’s death at the hands of police in 2014, Bragg said he believes law enforcement officials must be held to higher standards. On taking office, he created a Police Accountability Unit to investigate officers who engage in criminal conduct in their policing and a Post-Conviction Justice Unit to reinvestigate closed cases in which there are credible claims of innocence or an unjust conviction.

What are some things to know about Bragg’s personal life?

Bragg was raised in Harlem and has spoken about experiences with police officers there and growing up in the neighborhood during the 1980s crack cocaine epidemic. Bragg has spoken candidly about his exposure to violence, saying that before the age of 21, he had a gun pointed at him six times — including three times by police.

Perry Stein, Mark Berman, Shayna Jacobs, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Philip Bump, Derek Hawkins, John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro contributed to this report.