Manhattan prosecutors have invited former President Donald Trump to appear before the grand jury investigating his alleged role in a hush money payment scheme and cover-up, a person familiar with the matter said, indicating a decision on charging Trump may come soon.
Potential defendants in New York are required by law to be notified and invited to appear before a grand jury weighing charges. It is unclear if Trump would appear.
The New York Times first reported the development.
Trump would be the first former president ever indicted and also the first major presidential candidate under indictment seeking office. He has said he “wouldn’t even think about leaving” the race if charged.
Trump is facing criminal inquiries related to his activities before, during and after his presidency.
In addition to the New York City investigation, Fulton County, Georgia, prosecutors have been probing the effort by Trump and his allies to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results, and a Justice Department special counsel is investigating Trump’s role in the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and Trump’s handling of classified material after he left office.
Trump’s lawyer recently met with the district attorney’s office, one source told CNN. His legal team has been concerned with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s intentions because of recently ramped up activity at the grand jury, according to another source familiar with the matter. Former Trump White House aides Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway recently appeared before the grand jury.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment to CNN.
“The Manhattan District Attorney’s threat to indict President Trump is simply insane. For the past five years, the DA’s office has been on a Witch Hunt, investigating every aspect of President Trump’s life, and they’ve come up empty at every turn – and now this,” Trump’s spokesman said in a statement to CNN.
The investigation relates to a $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in late October 2016, days before the 2016 presidential election, to silence her from going public about an alleged affair with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has denied the affair.
In a lengthy response on his Truth Social account Thursday night, Trump said in part, “I did absolutely nothing wrong, I never had an affair with Stormy Daniels.”
Hush money payments aren’t illegal. Prosecutors are weighing whether to charge Trump with falsifying the business records of the Trump Organization for how it reflected the reimbursement of the payment to Michael Cohen, Trump’s then-fixer who said he advanced the money to Daniels. Falsifying business records is a misdemeanor in New York.
Prosecutors are also weighing whether to charge Trump with falsifying business records in the first degree for falsifying a record with the intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal another crime, which in this case could be a violation of campaign finance laws. That is a Class E felony and carries a sentence of a minimum of one year and as much as four years.
The Trump Organization noted the reimbursements as a legal expense in its internal books. Trump has previously denied knowledge of the payment.
If the district attorney’s office moves forward with charges, it’s not without risk. Trump’s lawyers could challenge whether campaign finance laws would apply as a crime to make the case a felony.
CNN reported last month that Jeffrey McConney, the controller of the Trump Organization, would appear in front of the grand jury, according to people familiar with matter. McConney is one of the highest-ranking financial officers at the Trump Organization and has responsibility for its books and records.
Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen is meeting with the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Friday and is set to appear Monday as well, CNN’s Don Lemon has reported.
Speaking to reporters has he walked into court Friday, Cohen said he has not yet testified in front of a grand jury.
“I have to applaud District Attorney Bragg for giving Donald the opportunity to come in and to tell his story,” Cohen said. “Now knowing Donald as well as I do, understand that, he doesn’t tell the truth. It’s one thing to turn around and to lie on your ‘Untruth Social’ and it’s another thing to turn around and to lie before a grand jury. So I don’t suspect that he’s going to be coming.”
When asked about whether the invitation for Trump to testify in front of the grand jury may indicate an indictment is near, Cohen said, “That seems to be the general consensus.”
This story has been updated with additional details.