What to Know
- All eyes have been on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg regarding a potential Donald Trump indictment; the grand jury heard a witness in the case Monday, but sources say the panel isn't expected to discuss the matter again this week. That could change
- David Pecker, former CEO of American Media and National Enquirer publisher, was the witness a day ago, sources said; he appeared before the grand jury for the second time
- If the Manhattan grand jury were to indict Trump, it would mark the first criminal charges against a former or sitting U.S. president. Any charges, or conviction, though, wouldn't ban him from running
The Manhattan grand jury that has been weighing charges against former President Donald Trump is not expected to vote on a possible indictment in the hush money case this week, though the schedule could change, three sources familiar with the matter said.
The sources said that as of Tuesday afternoon, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is not expected to convene the 23-member panel again until Thursday, when they say the group is expected to address matters other than Trump and Stormy Daniels. They did the same last Thursday after a scheduled meeting for the day before was abruptly called off. No reason was given at that time.
A day ago, the grand jury heard from David Pecker, former CEO of American Media and publisher of National Enquirer. It was his second appearance before the grand jury. Why appear again?
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Pecker's testimony could corroborate Michael Cohen's claim that the hush money payments were not just personal, but political, and that they were intended to catch and kill a story that could have impacted Trump's election.
In 2018, American Media Inc. admitted to paying $150,000 in hush money to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels. A statement of admitted facts said that AMI's "principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman's story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.
Federal prosecutors previously granted Pecker immunity in their investigation into Cohen. A week before Pecker's latest appearance, Trump ally Robert Costello, who waived immunity, sought to discredit Cohen before the grand jury.
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The president had told the globe he expected to be arrested last Tuesday. Seven days later, no arrest has come, nor has an indictment vote. And the world continues to wait.
Heightened concerns over potentially violent protests in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol last year also appear to have eased a bit. Two senior police officials said Monday that an NYPD order directing all officers report for duty in uniform in case of a possible indictment or related protest chaos was rescinded.
The department continues to monitor events in Lower Manhattan. Protest activity has been largely muted in the absence of any movement on the case by Bragg or the grand jury, which has been secretly hearing evidence for months in the case.
It's unclear if the testimony from Costello, who could be prosecuted if he were to perjure himself, factored into Bragg's grand jury plans over these last few days.
Trump has vociferously equated the relative silence out of the Manhattan grand jury to "NO CASE." He taunted Bragg on his social media platform for much of last week and continued to do so on Truth Social early Monday.
Bragg's office, which received threatening letters in the mail potentially related to the case, declined comment.
It's unclear if any possible organized actions could intensify should the grand jury opt to indict Trump, which would be the first indictment of a sitting or former U.S. president in history. But with the pall of the Jan. 6, 2022 insurrection still looming large, the NYPD, and its law enforcement partners at all levels of government, prepared accordingly.
What Happened? And What Happens Now?
Although the grand jury paused last week in its review of the case, former prosecutor Daniel Horwitz said he doesn't believe the delay was due to second thoughts about the credibility of Cohen, who has admitted to and served time in prison for lying about the payoff to the porn star.
"There’s a lot of criticism, questions about Michael Cohen. You know, lots of white collar cases — almost every white collar case is made with insiders," Horwitz said.
Cohen says he is telling the truth about Trump and falsified documents to try to cover up the hush-money payments — which are not illegal. However, falsifying business records to protect a presidential campaign might be.
"After reviewing everything, if the DA still believes the evidence warrants the charge, then I would expect Bragg to file those charges," said trial attorney Robert Gottlieb.
Columbia law professor John Coffee suggested the law itself could be a problem for prosecutors because even if the district attorney can prove Trump falsely accounted for hush money to Daniels, that would only amount to a misdemeanor. Winning a low-level felony conviction could require connecting that to a federal crime.
"The New York statute says it’s a misdemeanor if you just falsify the records. It’s a felony if you falsify the record in order to conceal a crime. But if the crime is a federal crime that is a different ball of wax," said Coffee. "It is not at all clear that NY state has jurisdiction or authority to find a violation of a federal crime."
Federal prosecutors had said the payments amounted to illegal, unreported assistance to Trump’s campaign. But they declined to file charges against Trump himself. The ex-president has denied all allegations against him.