A New York grand jury investigating hush payments made on Donald Trump’s behalf during the 2016 presidential campaign has refocused attention on the Manhattan district attorney steering the case. Alvin Bragg’s decision to convene the grand jury early this year could lead to the ﬁrst criminal charge against a former U. S. president.
Here’s what you need to know about Bragg: Alvin Bragg became Manhattan’s ﬁrst Black district attorney in 2022, following his election in November 2021.
The district attorney’s ofﬁce prosecutes nearly all criminal cases in Manhattan, staffed by about 500 lawyers. The district attorney also is a key political ﬁgure, overseeing cases that often involve defendants with immense wealth, fame and influence.
Manhattan district attorney is one of the most high-proﬁle prosecution jobs in the world, dramatized on TV shows like "Law & Order" and "Blue Bloods." Robert M. Morgenthau, who held the job for 35 years, was the model for the ﬁctional character Adam Schiff on "Law & Order," one of the series’ original leads played by actor Steven Hill.
The ofﬁce has a budget of about $150 million and has used a separate $800 million forfeiture fund bankrolled by Wall Street settlements for grants to criminal justice and community organizations and big initiatives, such as testing backlogged rape kits.
Bragg is one of ﬁve elected district attorneys in New York City – one for each of the city’s ﬁve boroughs. Bragg won a tough Democratic primary and then the general election to become Manhattan’s district attorney. He took over for retiring District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
Bragg, who grew up in Harlem, graduated from Harvard Law School.
Bragg is just the fourth elected district attorney in Manhattan in the last eight decades. Frank Hogan served for 31 years. Robert Morgenthau was in ofﬁce for 34 years, until he was 90. Vance retired at the end of 2021 after 12 years.
Bragg’s career includes time as a federal prosecutor, an assistant attorney general for the state of New York and a civil rights attorney who represented Eric Garner’s mother as she pressured New York City ofﬁcials for more accountability against the ofﬁcers and commanders involved in her son’s 2014 death by a police chokehold.
Bragg inherited a yearslong grand jury investigation into hush money paid on Trump’s behalf during his 2016 presidential campaign.
After taking ofﬁce, Bragg slowed down his ofﬁce’s move toward an indictment against Trump and said he had concerns about the strength of the case. That sparked a public protest by two prosecutors who were leading the investigation and resigned.
But Bragg convened a new grand jury early this year after successfully convicting Trump’s family company for tax fraud. He called that result a "strong demarcation line" for proceeding with other parts of the probe.
In general, the grand jury process is seen as extremely favorable to prosecutors. Proceedings are closed to the public and there is no judge. Prosecutors call and question witnesses and grand jurors – people drawn from the community – can ask questions. Grand jurors can either agree there is enough evidence to issue an indictment, ﬁnd there is not enough evidence or tell the prosecutor to ﬁle lesser charges.