When the words “grand jury” appear in the same sentence as “Donald Trump,” it’s surprisingly challenging to know which of the Republican’s many scandals the sentence might refer to. After all, a special grand jury heard evidence in the criminal investigation into election interference in Georgia. Evidence of the former president’s alleged Jan. 6 misconduct also went to a grand jury. The same is true in the criminal investigation into his mishandling of classified documents.
A grand jury was even empaneled to consider evidence in the investigation surrounding Trump’s special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).
But it appears there may be yet another grand jury for the former president to worry about. The New York Times reported today:
The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Monday will begin presenting evidence to a grand jury about Donald J. Trump’s role in paying hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign, laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The grand jury was recently impaneled, and witness testimony will soon begin, a clear signal that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, is nearing a decision about whether to charge Mr. Trump.
According to the Times’ reporting, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, prosecutors have already sought interviews with witnesses. In fact, one witness was seen today entering the New York building where the grand jury is sitting: David Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal with Stormy Daniels.
In case anyone needs a refresher let’s revisit our earlier coverage and review how we arrived at this point.
In a normal political environment, it would’ve been a career-ending scandal. Then-candidate Trump, in the run-up to Election Day 2016, allegedly paid illegal hush money to Daniels, a prominent porn actress, in the hopes of keeping secret an alleged extramarital affair. The Republican’s fixer, Michael Cohen, took the lead in orchestrating the illegal payment.
Cohen was ultimately charged, prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to prison, even as his former client was rewarded with the presidency.
The closer one looks at the relevant details, the worse the controversy appears. Not only did Cohen directly implicate Trump in the scandal, telling a court he arranged the illegal hush money payments at the instruction of his client, but the former president, while in office, was also caught lying about what transpired.
It’s long been an open question as to why Trump wasn’t also charged in the case. If the Times’ reporting is correct, the door is now open to a possible indictment.
Watch this space.
Postscript: Readers wondering how this matter could still be investigated, given that the alleged crime happened several years ago, should check out this Twitter thread my colleague Lisa Rubin wrote in November.