Manhattan prosecutors have offered former President Trump the chance to testify before a grand jury, a sign the former president could soon face criminal charges for his alleged role in hush money payments made to an adult film star during his 2016 campaign, according to The New York Times.
The move by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) suggests he may be nearing an indictment of the former president, given New York’s requirement that potential defendants be allowed to testify before a grand jury before they are indicted.
Offers to testify often come shortly before charging decisions are made, though defendants seldom avail themselves of the option.
Bragg’s office declined to comment.
The grand jury investigation centers on a $130,000 hush payment that Trump’s personal attorney and longtime fixer Michael Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election. The payment was part of a nondisclosure agreement over an affair Daniels says she had with the former president. Trump has denied the affair.
A number of law enforcement agencies are probing Trump and his business. The Justice Department has appointed a special counsel to oversee investigations into Trump’s role in the effort to remain in power after the 2020 election as well as the mishandling of government documents at Mar-a-Lago. A district attorney in Georgia is also investigating Trump’s efforts to influence the election in that state.
But a swift move from Bragg could put him ahead of the pack, taking action on a case that has been brewing since Trump’s first presidential campaign and one that toppled his longtime lawyer.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance violations, claiming he made the payment to Daniels at Trump’s behest and was subsequently reimbursed in installments.
Bragg began presenting evidence to the grand jury in late January. Legal experts have suggested that the prosecution could potentially bring charges over falsified business records, if it can show that Trump was personally involved in improperly designating Cohen’s reimbursements as legal expenses.
In a statement from Trump, the former president denied having an affair with actress Stormy Daniels and claimed the statute of limitations in the case has run out.
“This is a political Witch-Hunt, trying to take down the leading candidate, by far, in the Republican Party,” Trump said.
“Even the previous Manhattan DA, Cyrus Vance, did not bring charges because I am guilty of nothing except for the fact that I am beating all Republicans and Democrats badly in the Presidential race.”
Other cases centering on Trump also appear to be advancing.
The Justice Department on Thursday urged a judge during a closed session to reject attorney-client privilege claims of Trump’s attorney in the Mar-a-Lago probe, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Prosecutors have claimed Evan Corcoran may have violated the law when giving legal advice to Trump, possibly triggering the crime-fraud exception to the privilege.
In Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis (D) recently asked a judge to shield a report from a grand jury there, saying it could compromise potential future prosecutions and that charging decisions were “imminent.”
Updated at 9:51 a.m. Friday