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A look at Alvin Bragg, who has been the Manhattan DA for 15 months


If Donald Trump is to be indicted this week, the prosecutor in charge, the first prosecutor ever to bring criminal charges against a former U.S. president, would be Alvin Bragg. He's the district attorney of Manhattan. He's been in the job just 15 months, which has been plenty of time for President Trump and his allies to call Bragg biased.


ELISE STEFANIK: This is a political witch hunt perpetrated by one of the far-left, radical socialist district attorneys, Alvin Bragg.

KELLY: That is New York Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik speaking today on Fox News, whereas people who actually know Alvin Bragg describe him as generally not interested in political fights. Journalist Erica Orden found that as she reported on Bragg for a profile for Politico. Erica Orden, welcome.

ERICA ORDEN: Thank you very much for having me.

KELLY: All right. So Alvin Bragg is 49 years old, lifelong New Yorker, the first Black person to serve as Manhattan DA. Briefly give me a little bit more of his background. What's he done prior to this job?

ORDEN: Sure. So his two sort of biggest things on his resume were that he was a assistant U.S. attorney in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office. He worked largely under Preet Bharara, and he prosecuted a number of cases there. He did a lot of money laundering cases and a variety of other things. And he was - he worked for a number of years in the New York attorney general's office. And ultimately, he became the chief deputy attorney general in that office.

KELLY: And among the cases he has prosecuted in the past, he's prosecuted the Trump Business Organization and the Trump Foundation, right?

ORDEN: That's right. When he was in the New York attorney general's office, he supervised a lawsuit against the Trump Foundation that resulted in Trump personally paying a $2 million settlement. And earlier this year, while he was in the DA's office, his office won a criminal tax fraud trial against the Trump Organization.

KELLY: OK. He is - when you read about him, he's often described as progressive. Some of his more progressive initiatives so far as DA in Manhattan have provided ammunition for Trump and his defenders. What has he done that his opponents have seized upon?

ORDEN: Well, he had quite a bumpy start to his career in the district attorney's office. Two days after taking office - so January of last year - he issued a memo that directed assistant district attorneys to largely avoid prosecuting minor offenses. He told them to stop charging many low-level crimes and to avoid seeking jail time for many robbery, assault and gun possession cases in which no other crimes were committed. So there was a big sort of internal backlash to that directive. And there was also vocal criticism from a variety of outside sources, including the police commissioner, police unions and conservative media outlets.

KELLY: Well, I want to drill down a little bit more on his politics. It's, of course, impossible to peer into anyone's minds, but you've talked to a lot of people who know him who doubt that he has any political ax to grind here. What did they tell you?

ORDEN: Well, most people who have talked to him - you know, clearly he has progressive beliefs, and he has tried to institute those in the office. But most people who know him, who have known him for a long time and have worked for - and have worked with him or for him, believe that he really is not seeking any other higher office. In other words, his ambition is not to have a political career. He is obviously in elected office. And he got there by campaigning and going out on the campaign trail. But.

KELLY: Sure.

ORDEN: They don't believe that he is a political animal and that he is in pursuit of a political career...

KELLY: In the few seconds...

ORDEN: ...Other than being district attorney.

KELLY: Forgive me. In the few seconds we have left, he will inevitably face attacks, political attacks, if he does bring this case. Do you get a sense that Alvin Bragg cares?

ORDEN: Well, people who know him say that he's somewhat immune to the sort of public relations offenses that Donald Trump tends to enjoy bringing against his opponents. And, you know, he's a human being. I would imagine that he - you know, some level of criticism gets to anyone. But...

KELLY: Right.

ORDEN: In large part, people who know him say he won't be bothered too much by those.

KELLY: Erica Orden of Politico. Her profile of Alvin Bragg is out now. Thank you.

ORDEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Patrick Jarenwattananon
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Mary Louise Kelly
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.