More than four years after its launch, the Manhattan district attorney’s long-running criminal investigation into Donald Trump is potentially about to produce the first criminal indictment filed against a former US president.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has been presenting evidence before a grand jury since January. The panel is believed to be hearing about the infamous payment of $130,000 in hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about an extramarital date with Trump.
Sources close to the investigation say the prosecutor is exploring whether Trump committed felonies by reimbursing his mediator Michael Cohen for paying Daniels on the eve of the 2016 presidential election to help secure victory. Cohen went to prison for payment, his federal case details how he executed him when Daniels was ready to make their accusations public she slept with Trump in 2006 at a charity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe.
Bragg’s office has kept quiet about the confidential grand jury investigation, and it is not known whether the panel of New Yorkers will vote to indict Trump. The former president has speculated that his arrest is imminent, but sources with direct knowledge say he has not been notified of any charges stemming from the ongoing investigation.
But recent testimony from Cohen, a grand jury invitation extended to Trump which he declined, and prosecutors who interviewed Daniels, Kellyanne Conway, Hope Hicks and several Trump associates connected to the hush money deal have inflamed speculation that the prosecutor is about to decide whether to indict Trump once and for all.
The potential charges come after a lengthy investigation exploring hush money and Trump’s allegedly illegal business practices.
The expansive inquiry reached the US Supreme Court twice, with the Trump-appointed heavyweight panel bringing down the president both times – and branched out into criminal tax fraud cases against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg. The company was fined $1.6 million in January after his conviction at trial, and Weisselberg is serving a five-month jail sentence at Rikers.
Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr., launched the investigation shortly after Cohen’s 2018 federal conviction for tax evasion, making illegal campaign contributions and lying to Congress and a financial institution. After his guilty plea, Cohen continued to sing, showing lawmakers checks signed by Trump as reimbursement for paying Daniels when he testified in court. house monitoring committee.
During legal battles for Trump’s taxes, Vance’s office revealed that the investigation was also exploring Cohen’s allegations that Trump, for years, savagely manipulated the value of assets such as golf clubs, resorts and skyscrapers by hundreds of millions of dollars to get better loans and tax breaks.
The New York attorney general’s office finally brought the case for large-scale financial fraud against Trump and his adult sons, all company executives, in a $250 million civil lawsuit filed in September.
Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit accuses Trump of inflating his net worth by more than $1 billion and routinely engaging in rampant tax fraud, bank fraud and business fraud as head of the Trump Organization. James had two investigators attached to the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation.
It remains to be seen why Bragg decided to refocus on the more salacious element of expansive research, or if he abandoned other areas altogether.
When he took office in early 2022, the DA’s different approach to his predecessor came under scrutiny when investigators hired by Vance resigned in protest, alleging that Bragg was refusing to authorize an indictment against Trump despite evidence that he had broken the law.
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The grand jury testimony is confidential, but the hush money deal has long been public knowledge. According to Cohen’s 2018 guilty plea, Trump ordered him to pay Daniels “for the primary purpose of influencing the election,” and Cohen drew the money from a home equity line of credit and wired it to Daniels via a fictitious company.
Trump got the bill after he became president, reimbursing Cohen with interest on monthly checks totaling $420,000 at the end of 2017, according to the feds’ case. Cohen then falsely billed the company for a “retainer agreement” that the Trump Organization falsely recorded on its books as “legal expenses.”
When Bragg came under pressure last spring to explain his strategies in the Trump investigation, the prosecutor insisted that she was still alive and would communicate with the American people once a decision to indict Trump was made.
“I unequivocally promise that the Bureau will publicly declare the conclusion of our investigation, whether we conclude our work without filing charges or move forward with an indictment,” Bragg said in April.
On Saturday, Trump said he expects that conclusion to come as soon as this week, then called on his supporters to “outcry” his arrest.