How Manhattan’s district attorney resurrected the case against Donald Trump

There was a key difference between Bragg’s briefings on the net worth case and digging into the hush-money: time. The new district attorney had only weeks to consider the net worth case before it would have been time to seek a vote from the grand jury, whose term was scheduled to expire in late April 2022.

Ms Kim Foxx, the state’s attorney in Cook County, Illinois, who is friendly with Bragg, said that prosecutors running for office are at a natural disadvantage when it comes to the cases they inherit.

“You don’t have the facts; you don’t have the months or years worth of investigation that are there,” she said.

Going through evidence, Bragg warmed to the idea of charging Trump in connection with his role in the hush-money payment. Unlike the net worth case, Mr Cohen was directly involved: He had made the US$130,000 (S$173,000) payment to Ms Daniels, for which Trump reimbursed him. If the sequence of events that led to the payment were to be illustrated, the former fixer would be the line connecting all the dots.

Ms Hoffinger contacted Mr Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, to reassure him that the investigation into Trump was very much alive. Mr Cohen, she suggested, might still become a valuable witness.

In July, Bragg built up the Trump team, a sign of his growing confidence. Ms Catherine McCaw, who had garnered attention for her role in the prosecution of Ms Anna Sorokin, the con woman better known as Anna Delvey, joined. So did Ms Rebecca Mangold and Ms Katherine Ellis, prosecutors in the office’s Major Economic Crimes Bureau.

At the time, prosecutors in the district attorney’s office were preparing for another Trump-related trial: Before Mr Vance left office, he had charged the former president’s company and a senior executive, Allen Weisselberg, with orchestrating a yearslong tax fraud scheme. In August 2022, Mr Weisselberg pleaded guilty, but the Trump Organization refused a plea, setting the stage for the highest-profile trial of the district attorney’s tenure.

Bragg later said he began to think of the two matters as chapters in a book: First would come the Trump Organization’s trial. Then the investigation into Trump could progress.

For the trial, which began on Halloween, Ms Hoffinger teamed up with Mr Joshua Steinglass, an experienced trial lawyer who specializes in homicide cases. It was part of the district attorney’s philosophy: pairing lawyers with different skills on a single team.

While Ms Hoffinger and Mr Steinglass were focused on the trial, Mr Conroy and Mr Pope continued to examine the legal theories underpinning the hush-money case. A chief skeptic of the previous Trump investigation, Mr Conroy was pushing the hush money one forward.

During that period, Bragg and his deputies indicated to associates and outside supporters that he was newly optimistic about building a case against Trump, The Times reported in November 2022. Shortly before the jurors in the Trump Organization trial began to deliberate, the office announced that it had hired Mr Matthew Colangelo, a former senior Justice Department official who had experience building a civil case against Trump and who came to be one of the leaders of the Manhattan investigation.

The day after Mr Colangelo’s hiring was announced, the jury returned its verdict: Trump’s company was guilty, and Bragg had won a significant victory.

In interviews after the win, Bragg took his “chapter” analogy public. And when asked about the case against Trump, he told reporters that he had “been cautioning people not to read ahead in the book.”

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