How the long-running hush money probe evolved as Manhattan DA Bragg nears possible indictment of Trump
Published in Political News
NEW YORK — More than four years after it was launched, the Manhattan district attorney’s long-lived criminal probe into Donald Trump is potentially about to produce the first criminal indictment ever filed against a former U.S. president.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has been presenting evidence to a grand jury since January. The panel is believed to be hearing about the infamous $130,000 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about an extramarital tryst with Trump.
Sources close to the probe say the DA is exploring whether Trump committed felony-level crimes in reimbursing his longtime fixer Michael Cohen for paying off Daniels on the eve of the 2016 presidential election to help secure the win. Cohen went to prison for the payoff, his federal case detailing how he executed it when Daniels was ready to go public with her allegations she slept with Trump in 2006 at a Lake Tahoe charity golf tournament.
Bragg’s office has remained tight-lipped on the confidential grand jury probe, and there is no telling whether the panel of New Yorkers will vote to indict Trump. The former president has speculated his arrest is imminent, but sources with direct knowledge say he had not been notified of any charges stemming from the ongoing investigation.
But Cohen’s recent testimony, an invitation to meet with the grand jury extended to Trump —which he declined — and prosecutors having interviewed Daniels, Kellyanne Conway, Hope Hicks and several Trump associates connected to the hush money deal have fueled speculation that the DA is on the verge of deciding whether to charge Trump.
The potential charges come after a long-running investigation exploring the hush money and Trump’s allegedly illegal business practices.
The expansive probe twice made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which shot down Trump both times, and branched off criminal tax fraud cases against the Trump Organization and its longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg. The company was fined $1.6 million in January after its conviction at trial, and Weisselberg is serving a five-month jail term at Rikers.
Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr., launched the investigation soon 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 talk, showing lawmakers checks signed by Trump as reimbursement for paying off Daniels when he testified before the House Oversight committee.
During legal battles for Trump’s taxes, Vance’s office revealed the probe was also exploring Cohen’s allegations that Trump, for years, wildly manipulated the value of assets like golf clubs, resorts, and skyscrapers by hundreds of millions of dollars to score better loans and tax breaks.
The New York attorney general’s office ultimately brought the large-scale financial fraud case against Trump and his adult children, all executives in the company, in a $250 million civil lawsuit filed in September.
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