Former FEC Chairman Bradley Smith, who agreed to provide expert testimony in Donald Trump’s high-profile hush money trial, this week openly criticized the legal strategy employed by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Trump’s defense team planned to introduce the seasoned expert from the FEC to testify in the high-profile NY v. Trump case. However, their strategy encountered a setback when Judge Juan Merchan dramatically restricted the topics Bradley Smith could address, resulting in his testimony being sidelined.

Speaking to Newsweek, Smith argues that Bragg’s theory is incorrect and could potentially enhance the defense’s chances of winning on appeal if a conviction is secured. Smith stated, “The legal theory on which the prosecution rests regarding possible [Federal Election Campaign Act] violations is wrong and this is an issue I care deeply about.”

“Judge Merchan has so restricted my testimony that defense has decided not to call me. Now, it’s elementary that the judge instructs the jury on the law, so I understand his reluctance. But the Federal Election Campaign Act is very complex. Even Antonin Scalia – a pretty smart guy, even you hate him – once said ‘this [campaign finance] law is so intricate that I can’t figure it out.’”


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Smith continued, “Picture a jury in a product liability case trying to figure out if a complex machine was negligently designed, based only on a boilerplate recitation of the general definition of ‘negligence.’ They’d be lost without knowing technology & industry norms.”

Smith, known for his tenure as chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from 2000 to 2005, is recognized for his libertarian views on campaign finance. He advocates for less regulation over political campaign spending and contributions, arguing that strict campaign finance laws can impede free speech and political participation. Since his time at the FEC, Smith has been actively involved in academic and legal discussions on campaign finance, frequently opposing measures that seek to impose greater limits on spending and contributions in political campaigns.

Merchan determined that the proposed testimony of Trump’s expert would veer into the realm of “legal opinion.” To maintain balance, the ruling allowed the DA’s office the option to introduce a counter-expert on the same legal theories. Although Merchan left open the possibility for Smith to testify, he restricted Smith’s input strictly to “general definitions and terms” of campaign finance law, significantly narrowing the scope of his testimony.

Smith disclosed to Newsweek that he has consistently declined the “vast majority” of requests to serve as an expert throughout his distinguished career. Over three decades, he has accepted only six such engagements, highlighting his selective approach to the roles he chooses to undertake.

“I am very disappointed that Judge Merchan barred this testimony while allowing Michael Cohen (not an expert) to describe the law—including a conclusion on the ultimate issue of Trump’s guilt—for ‘context.’ He also allowed the prosecutors to do the same in opening,” Smith wrote on The Federalist in April.

“Much of the commentary on the case — at least from those defending the former president — has consisted of accusations that Manhattan District Attorney (DA) Alvin Bragg is abusing his power on a political vendetta and that Judge Juan Merchan is a biased partisan,” Smith added.


Disclaimer: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.