Pecker reportedly testified previously in the matter. So why was he back?
First, a quick refresher on this character. Recall that, back in 2016, Pecker, then a longtime friend of Donald Trump’s, was involved in the scheme to silence Stormy Daniels ahead of the presidential election. The porn star was ready to go public about an affair she alleges to have had with Trump, which Trump has denied. Pecker helped Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, facilitate the hush payment to Daniels.
But if the grand jurors already heard from Pecker, why would they need or want to hear from him again?
One possibility is that prosecutors or grand jurors wanted to hear from him after having heard from Trump-aligned witness Robert Costello last week. Costello said he told the grand jury that Cohen acted on his own to make the payment, without Trump. It struck me as a somewhat strange point at the time, because even if it’s true, it doesn’t necessarily negate a charge of falsifying business records, if in fact that’s a charge prosecutors are seeking. That’s because such a charge wouldn’t have to hinge on the motive for making the payment but rather the cover-up. So Trump’s knowledge ahead of time is arguably beside the point, at least for that charge.
Yet, to the extent that the grand jurors are assessing Costello’s credibility generally, they might want to hear from Pecker about whether he has additional testimony that directly contradicts Costello’s. One would imagine that Pecker’s direct knowledge of Trump’s role would have been brought before the grand jury the first time he testified. But it’s possible that Costello’s testimony raised specific questions that required recalling Pecker.
Before voting on charges, grand jurors are able to ask questions that they didn’t think of when a certain witness was before them, so it’s also possible that Pecker’s appearance wasn’t directly related to Costello but rather was prompted by a question about how prosecutors seek to prove a certain charge, whether it’s a charge of falsifying business records or something else that required additional testimony from Pecker to understand.
Hopefully we learn more when the grand jury convenes next, which could be Wednesday.