IN NEW YORK: According to a report, a New York grand jury will hear testimony from former President Donald Trump next week regarding hush money payments made on his behalf during the 2016 presidential campaign.
According to “four people with knowledge of the matter,” the Manhattan district attorney’s office extended the invitation. When such an invitation is extended, it usually means a decision on indictments is close at hand.
The office of the district attorney declined to comment. A Trump spokesperson released a statement attacking the investigation led by Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
It has never happened before for a former president of the United States to be indicted. It would occur as Trump ramps up his campaign to win the presidency again in 2024 despite facing mounting legal trouble on multiple fronts.
Decisions are “imminent,” according to the district attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, who has been investigating possible illegal meddling in the 2020 election by Trump and his allies for the past two years. Trump’s and his allies’ attempts to undo the election and the handling of classified documents at his Florida estate are also under investigation by a special counsel appointed by the US Department of Justice.
Trump is being investigated by a grand jury in New York over a $130,000 hush money payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 to silence her about a sexual encounter she claims to have had with the Republican years earlier.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s now estranged attorney, paid the money out of his own pocket, but later claimed to have been reimbursed by the Trump Organization and given additional bonuses, bringing the grand total to $420,000.
Cohen admitted in 2018 to federal charges that the payment was an illegal campaign contribution, along with another he helped arrange to model Karen McDougal through the parent company of the National Enquirer tabloid.
In that time, when Trump was already in office, federal prosecutors decided against filing any charges against him. Afterwards, the Manhattan district attorney’s office began its own investigation, which dragged on for years but has gained steam in recent months.
Former political adviser Kellyanne Conway and former spokesperson Hope Hicks are just two of the Trump associates who have been seen in recent days entering Bragg’s office for meetings with prosecutors.
Cohen has also met with prosecutors multiple times, most recently stating that he believed the investigation was winding down.
Potential targets of criminal investigations in New York are generally only invited to testify only if they waive that immunity, as those who appear before a grand jury are granted immunity from prosecution for things they say during their testimony. If a criminal case could result, most attorneys would advise against it.
It’s unclear what kinds of charges the government could be considering.
Some attorneys have speculated that the way in which the payments to Cohen were structured and internally classified as being for a legal retainer could constitute a crime. New York penalizes the intentional manipulation of business records with a misdemeanor unless the fraud is part of a larger scheme involving multiple felonies.
The district attorney’s office has been looking into whether Trump and his company lied about the value of their assets to lenders and potential business partners for years on the side. The state’s attorney general has initiated civil proceedings based on these allegations.