Alvin Bragg’s Unusual ‘Book List’: Prosecutor Mines Bestsellers, Including Stormy Daniels’ Memoir, as He Goes After Trump
The prosecutor’s list of ‘evidence’ includes multiple books on the former president, going back even to Donald Trump’s famous 1987 memoir, ‘The Art of the Deal.’
The disclosure by District Attorney Alvin Bragg of some of the evidence against President Trump indicates that the prosecutor is scrutinizing not just financial documents and audio recordings, but a more unusual source — the bestseller list. The roster raises the possibility that The People v. Donald Trump could use prose to prosecute a president.
Two full pages of Mr. Bragg’s filing — labeled “Addendum A” — are devoted to a reading list of books by President Trump and about him. Five of them are by the former president, including, from 1987, “Trump: The Art of the Deal.” Vice President Pence’s extraordinary memoir makes an appearance, as do works by a porn star, Stormy Daniels, a journalist, Bob Woodward, and a former attorney general, William Barr.
Mr. Trump has been a boon to authors and those who sell their books. According to a service that tracks book sales, NPDBookScan, 1,200 unique titles about Mr. Trump were published during his first term, compared to 500 on President Obama. One was written by his former doorman, Dino Sajudin. Another comes from the pen of his niece, Mary.
The critic Carlos Lozada, who himself wrote a book about these books, “What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era,” judges that too many books “of the Trump era are more knee-jerk than incisive, more posing than probing, more righteous than right.” Nevertheless, many appear to be part of Mr. Bragg’s canon.
Some of these books arrive in court trailing checkered pasts. One, “People v. Donald Trump: An Inside Account,” would never have reached readers if Mr. Bragg had his way. Written by one of the district attorney’s former deputies, Mark Pomerantz, it disclosed behind-the-scenes discord over Mr. Trump’s fate. Mr. Bragg fought its publication and called it “appalling.” Now, he cites it.
Mr. Bragg’s list also includes not one but two texts authored by Mr. Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen. These are hardly works of sober detachment; the first is titled “Revenge,” the second “Disloyal,” and both launch broadsides against Mr. Trump and contend that he was, and is, unfit for the presidency.
In “Disloyal,” Cohen writes: “I know where the skeletons are buried because I was the one who buried them.” At trial, Cohen will likely be asked about a particular set of those skeletons, as the payments he delivered to Ms. Daniels are at the center of Mr. Bragg’s contention that Mr. Trump falsified business records in pursuit of a yet unnamed second alleged crime.
One clue could reside in the inclusion of a book by the journalist Ronan Farrow, “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators,” which details his investigation of accusations against the producer Harvey Weinstein. The title comes from the practice of press outlets buying damaging stories in order to kill rather than publish them.
The allegation that Mr. Trump employed this tactic is indispensable to Mr. Bragg’s case. In announcing the indictment he alleged that Mr. Trump and others “employed a ‘catch and kill’ scheme to identify, purchase, and bury negative information about him and boost his electoral prospects.” That “information” related to his affair with Ms. Daniels.
Mr. Bragg will aim to convince a Manhattan jury that, in the prosecutor’s words, Mr. Trump “orchestrated” a scheme “through a series of payments that he then concealed through months of false business entries,” captured in the 34 counts of the indictment. Those payments were made by Cohen, whom Mr. Trump later reimbursed while he was president.
The statement of facts accompanying the indictment mentions that “during and in furtherance of his candidacy for President, the Defendant and others agreed to identify and suppress negative stories about him.” One of those acts of suppression involved, according to the statement of facts, a “former Trump Tower doorman” who tried to “sell information regarding a child” that Mr. Trump allegedly fathered out of wedlock.
That appears to be a reference to Mr. Sajudin and his book “Trump’s Doorman,” published in 2019, which alleged that the alleged mother of this hypothesized child was an unnamed Trump Tower concierge. According to Mr. Bragg, American Media Inc. paid “the Doorman” $30,000 in 2015 to “acquire exclusive rights” to the wedlock story, “without fully investigating his claims.”
AMI’s chief executive, David Pecker, allegedly thought that the risk to Mr. Trump’s nascent presidential campaign was too grave to take any chances that the story could strangle his bid before it had a chance to take flight. Mr. Bragg alleges that when Mr. Pecker ascertained that the story was not true, Cohen urged him to wait until after the election to release Mr. Sajudin from the exclusive agreement.
If true, that timing could suggest that records were falsified in the service of campaign laws, with an eye toward securing the White House for Mr. Trump, delivering Mr. Bragg the felony that his charged misdemeanors do not, on their own. The Associated Press reports that the woman in question “denied emphatically” that “she’d ever had an affair with Trump.”
For his part, Mr. Sajudin wrote that he wondered what kept the concierge “in the tower’s good graces” before deducing that “Little Tiffany and Ivanka are not the only girls out there carrying the big guy’s DNA.” The AP reports that the concierge’s response to hearing Mr. Sajudin’s story was: “This is all fake.”