A grand jury has been convened in New York City in the case of hush money payments to Stormy Daniels allegedly authorised by Donald Trump in 2016, three sources familiar with the situation have confirmed to NBC News.
A spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg declined to comment. Ron Fischetti, Donald Trump’s lawyer, declined to comment on Monday night. In a post on his Truth Social platform, Trump blasted Bragg as the “Radical Left Manhattan D.A.” and said the new grand jury was “a continuation of the Greatest Witch Hunt of all time.”
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, recently met with prosecutors as the investigation heats up and could be asked to appear before the grand jury. The New York Times first reported news of the grand jury in the years-long investigation into payments made to Daniels, a former porn star, to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter between her and Trump.
The Times reported that witnesses began testifying before the grand jury on Monday, signalling an escalation in what Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has alluded to as “the next chapter” in his office’s Trump investigation.
Grand juries have previously been convened in New York to explore the possibility of criminal charges against Trump, but none have yet issued an indictment. The Manhattan grand jury would be the latest legal threat to Trump as he ramps up his presidential campaign.
A special grand jury in Atlanta has been investigating whether Trump and his allies committed crimes while trying to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia. Last month, the House Committee on 6 January voted to refer Trump’s role in sparking the violent uprising at the US Capitol to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. The FBI is also investigating Trump’s handling of classified information.
The hush-money investigation in New York involves payments of $130,000 to Daniels and $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to buy their silence in the run-up to Trump’s 2016 election victory. Trump has denied having affairs with either woman.
In 2018, Trump tweeted that the money “did not come from the campaign” and that the deal was “a private contract between two parties, known as a Non-Disclosure Agreement or NDA”.
“The agreement was used to stop her false and extortionist accusations of an affair … even though she had already signed a detailed letter admitting there was no affair,” Trump said on Twitter.
Cohen made the payment to Daniels through his own company and said he was then reimbursed by Trump, who confirmed he reimbursed Cohen the $130,000. McDougal’s payment was made through the publisher of the supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer, which then suppressed her story in a journalistically dubious practice known as “catch-and-kill” to help Trump become president.
The New York Times reported that the former publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, was seen entering the building where the grand jury was meeting on Monday.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges that he violated campaign finance laws by arranging the payments. He served about a year in prison before being released on home confinement. Federal prosecutors said Trump was aware of the payouts but declined to charge him with a crime.
Cohen previously told The Associated Press that he recently met with Manhattan prosecutors for 2½ hours. He claimed in an MSNBC interview on Monday that the payment was made “at the direction of and for the benefit of Donald J. Trump”.
The Trump Organisation was convicted of tax fraud last month and fined $1.6 million as punishment for an unrelated scheme in which top executives dodged personal income taxes on lavish job perks.
“Now that the trial is over, we are moving on to the next chapter,” Bragg told The Associated Press in an interview after the tax fraud trial.
The Trump Organisation suggested in a statement that Bragg, a Democrat, was trying to undermine Trump’s fledgling 2024 presidential campaign. Reviving the investigation years after federal prosecutors decided not to pursue a case was “simply reprehensible and vindictive,” the company said.
Bragg’s predecessor as district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr, also investigated the hush-money payments before shifting the probe’s focus to the Trump Organisation’s tax and business practices.
The report: https://www.nbcconnecticut.com