A year and a half before Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg became the archenemy of MAGA world, his candidacy was opposed by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. It’s an interesting bit of trivia in the saga of this historic indictment.
In 2021, before news that Bragg might indict former President Donald Trump gave Bragg a national profile and made him the target of death threats and conservative media apoplexy, he was locked in a crowded and competitive Democratic primary in a decisive race in a borough where Republicans have little presence.
The Manhattan DA’s office was being vacated by prosecutor Cy Vance, who had held the role for over a decade, winning a reputation for looking the other way in high-profile cases of wrongdoing by the rich and powerful, including those of Harvey Weinstein and the Trump family; he was also known for accepting campaign donations from defense attorneys with cases he was presiding over.
With eight candidates in the race, the Harlem-born Bragg was locked in a tight pack. He won a coveted endorsement from the New York Times editorial board, but was being blown out of the water in terms of fundraising by another candidate, former federal prosecutor Tali Farhadian Weinstein.
Farhadian Weinstein was beloved by deep-pocketed donors on Wall Street. Colleagues of her husband, Boaz Weinstein, the founder of the $3 billion hedge fund Saba Capital Management, helped her raise millions of dollars. She also poured $8.2 million of her own fortune into her campaign coffers. By Election Day (for the primary, which was sure to establish the Democratic victor of the whole race), she had roughly $13 million in campaign funds, more than the other seven candidates combined. In second place was Bragg, at roughly $2 million.
Then, in the race’s final weeks, Farhadian Weinstein won support from an extremely consequential backer: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton’s formal endorsement of Farhadian Weinstein, just a week before the primary in June 2021, was both rare and sought-after. At that point it was the ex–New York senator’s only political endorsement of the year at any level. With a smattering of progressive candidates in the race, including Bragg, Farhadian Weinstein was viewed as well to the right of the top contenders.
Clinton’s surprising decision to come off the sidelines to oppose Bragg and support Farhadian Weinstein seemed like it might be decisive in a close contest. But Bragg managed to squeak out a narrow victory, winning 34 percent of the vote to Fardahian Weinstein’s 31 percent, thanks to his strength in Harlem and Lower Manhattan.
Would Trump have ended up in cuffs if Clinton had gotten her way and Farhadian Weinstein had triumphed? We don’t know for sure, of course, but it seems less likely. Bragg, like other progressives in the race, was explicitly critical of the culture of elite impunity that outgoing DA Vance had fostered during his time in office. Vance’s bad reputation became nationally known in large part because of his refusal to take up cases against Donald and Ivanka Trump.
Farhadian Weinstein was less critical of Vance, and many backers saw her as a continuation of his approach. “Tali is a favorite among financial services and other members of the business community who know her both socially and professionally and think very highly of her,” Kathryn Wylde, the CEO of the business lobbying firm Partnership for NYC, told Gawker at the time. “The business community has generally thought that Cy Vance has done a good job at reconciling quality of life and criminal justice issues and that they would like to see continuity and a thoughtful approach and, if I may say, a moderate approach.”
Opposition to Bragg, in some sense, has made Clinton and Trump odd bedfellows. Of course, it has taken very different forms. Trump’s hostility to Bragg has been violent and threatening, calling Manhattan’s first Black district attorney an “animal” and “racist,” and “Soros-backed.” Clinton just backed Bragg’s primary opponent.
For anti-Trump Democrats and nonpartisan supporters of the enforcement of laws, Trump’s arrest is a triumph of accountability. But if Clinton had gotten her way, it’s possible that this moment never would have come. Bet she’s happy with Bragg right now.