Prosecutors with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office have taken action that suggests Donald Trump could soon be indicted for his role in paying hush money to an adult film star during the closing days of the 2016 presidential election, making him the first former president in US history to face criminal charges.
It would be out of the ordinary for prosecutors to offer a potential defendant an opportunity to testify before a grand jury if they were not preparing to seek an indictment. Under New York law, a person who could be indicted has a right to appear before a grand jury before a prosecutor asks the grand jury to vote on charges against that person. It is extremely unlikely that Mr Trump would avail himself of that right, however.
The New York-based investigation into Mr Trump has been ongoing since 2018, when Mr Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen faced federal charges related to the same scheme, under which he paid $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels to prevent her from revealing an affair with the then-presidential candidate before voters went to polls in November 2016.
Mr Cohen has repeatedly met with the New York County District Attorney’s office, which is led by District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and is expected to testify before the grand jury.
Other former aides to Mr Trump have given evidence in the probe, including ex-2016 campaign aides Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks.
Mr Trump’s team hit back at the latest development in a statement.
“The Manhattan District Attorney’s threat to indict President Trump is simply insane,” the statement reads. “For the past five years, the DA’s office has been on a Witch Hunt, investigating every aspect of President Trump’s life, and they’ve come up empty at every turn — and now this. The fact that after their intensive investigation the DA is even considering a new political attack is a clear exoneration of President Trump in all areas.”
Mr Bragg’s investigation represents the most imminent legal peril faced by Mr Trump, who routinely describes legitimate criminal inquiries into his conduct as politically-motivated witch hunts.
He is also under investigation by prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, and a special grand jury there recently completed a probe into his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden in that state.
Additionally, a federal probe looking into his attempts to overturn the election — and his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol — is being supervised by a Department of Justice special counsel, Jack Smith.
Mr Smith is also supervising a probe into the twice-impeached ex-president’s unlawful retention of classified documents at his Palm Beach, Florida residence and his alleged obstruction of the government’s efforts to recover those documents.
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