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One person not frequently seen at Trump's trial: Alvin Bragg, the D.A. who brought the case

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Trump team still considering calling witnesses in New York trial 03:29

Former President Donald Trump often arrives at his New York criminal trial flanked by elected officials who choose to while away the hours sitting in a courtroom.

They sit in the first two rows of the court on Trump's side, a section reserved for his team. On the prosecution's side, the same section often has an empty seat, reserved for a public official who's mostly chosen to do other work during the trial: Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney.

Bragg has attended portions of proceedings here and there, primarily on days when his own staff — including young paralegals — are called to testify as custodial witnesses and then are subject to defense grilling. 

"Bragg is doing it the right way," said Domenic Trunfio, a Syracuse University law professor. 

Trunfio ran the day-to-day operations of the Onandaga County district attorney's office in Syracuse for nearly two decades, with a jurisdiction of about half-a-million people, one-third the size of Manhattan. He said it's meaningful that Bragg shows up for his staff.

"It shows support. It says, 'Hey, I'm here. I know you're testifying in a case against the former president of the United States. And I'm here for you,'" said Trunfio.

That was the case when paralegal Georgia Longstreet was challenged by Trump attorney Todd Blanche over whether she has independent knowledge of how X (formerly Twitter) or Trump's Truth Social network append timestamps to social media posts — or if she could affirmatively say who Trump was talking about when he posted, "If you go after me, I'm coming after you!"

"I have my assumptions, but, no," Longstreet said, sitting some 10 feet from Trump. 

And he watched as another Trump attorney, Emil Bove, asked paralegal Jaden Jarmel-Schneider if creating phone call log charts was "tedious" work.

"Honestly, I kind of enjoyed it," said Jarmel-Schneider, prompting laughter in the courtroom. 

"I hear that. Respect," Bove replied. 

A spokesperson for Bragg declined comment for this story.

Trump has entered a not guilty plea in the case, in which he's charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. The documents were allegedly meant to hide "hush money" payments made in 2016 to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who at the time agreed not to speak publicly about a sexual encounter that Trump denies. 

Bragg has attended parts of about one-third of the trial's 18 days, but even that level of attendance is extraordinarily rare for a Manhattan D.A., according to Diana Florence, who worked for Bragg's two predecessors.

"In my 25-year career, where I did a lot of high profile cases, the D.A. came to my summations a couple of times and to opening statements a couple of times," Florence said. "But generally speaking, that wasn't really something they would do."

Florence said D.A.s are typically too busy with other aspects of the job to sit in on trials, such as pushing legislation relevant to law enforcement or their office and reviewing other major cases coming before grand juries.

Bragg has done both in the last month. Among other things, he championed an update to New York's hate crimes legislation that was included in the state's fiscal year 2025 budget, sent a letter asking YouTube to modify algorithms that he said recommended videos to kids about how to make ghost guns and 3D-printed guns, and he joined a push for a bill that would allow prosecutors to more easily introduce evidence in sex crimes cases that show defendants' prior "bad acts."

That bill was inspired by an April 25 New York Court of Appeals decision overturning the rape conviction of former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

His office has also announced major indictments, including ones related to the murder of a man shoved in front of a subway, sex trafficking, a large-scale retail theft ring and a notorious landlord accused of harassing his tenants.

Florence and Trunfio said for big cases like those, as well as the Weinstein case and of course, the Trump case, prosecutors need the D.A.'s buy-in. Ultimately, it's his name on the indictment.

"The elephant in the room here is this is the biggest criminal case that anybody has seen in a century," said Trunfio.

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