Former President Donald Trump recently had the opportunity to appear before a grand jury in Manhattan over the porn star Stormy Daniels hush money scandal — a sign that criminal charges may follow.
Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office have passed on Trump’s offer to testify next week if he wishes, a legal source told Fox News. The agency, led by DA Alvin Bragg, has spent the past five years investigating the hush money scandal – which took place in 2016.
The source warned that it wasn’t necessarily a guarantee there would be an indictment, or when that might happen. The source explained how potential defendants in New York have the right to testify before the grand jury prior to such an indictment, but those defendants rarely do. This would be the first time a former US president has been charged with criminal charges.
Trump attorney Susan Necheles responded to Fox News on Friday: “For five years, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has investigated every facet of former President Trump’s life. Unable to find criminality in any aspect of his finances, the Manhattan District Attorney to now file charges against former President Trump for payments made to Stormy Daniels seven years ago attorney, Michael Cohen, a convicted liar, the blackmailer paid and excessive selective prosecution.”
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Former President Donald Trump may face criminal charges by New York prosecutors after his lawyers were told he is welcome to appear before a grand jury next week. (Brandon Bell)
The New York Times reports this on Thursday.
Hush money isn’t criminal, but prosecutors can argue that the $130,000 payment to Daniels was an improper donation to the Trump campaign since Daniels’ nondisclosure agreement aided his candidacy.
According to the Times, the case against Trump hinges on an “untested and therefore risky legal theory involving a complex interplay of laws.”
Near the end of the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen sent $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels to prevent her from revealing her 2006 affair with Trump. Trump paid Cohen back in installments.
Daniels representatives had contacted the National Enquirer to offer exclusive rights to the story. The publisher, an ally of Trump, instead connected Daniels’ team with Cohen to broker a deal.
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Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels and attorney Michael Avenatti attend the 2019 Adult Video News Awards at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on January 26, 2019. (Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)
During Cohen’s criminal investigation, prosecutors argued that Trump’s company had falsely filed the Stormy Daniels payments as legal fees. Because the compensation was done under the table, this could count as falsification of the records.
Falsifying company information is a crime. It could be elevated to a misdemeanor charge if Trump had intent to defraud or conceal.
The New York investigation comes as Trump also comes under scrutiny from Georgia’s Fulton County District Attorney for alleged interference in the 2020 election. A federal special counsel is also looking into Trump’s handling of classified documents and his relationship with the January 6 Capitol riots.
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Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, leaves his apartment to report to the prison in Manhattan, New York, on May 6, 2019. (REUTERS/Jeenah Moon TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY/File Photo)
Whether Trump can be sent to prison is unknown at this time. The former president faces up to four years in prison if convicted, but there is no mandatory sentence.
Marta Dhanis is a reporter and field producer based in New York who focuses on criminal justice and the courts. Follow her on Twitter: @MartaDhanis