However, his legal status just got complicated by a new development out of New York.
According to the New York Times, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has begun presenting a Trump-related case to a “special grand jury.”
The case involves Trump’s alleged payments to the adult film star Stormy Daniels, as hush money for their purported affair.
The grand jury has been empaneled, with witnesses soon to appear before it.
This indicates, per the report, that District Attorney Alvin Bragg is “nearing a decision about whether to charge Mr. Trump.”
The report also said that David Pecker, the longtime former publisher of the National Enquirer, was seen entering the Manhattan building where the grand jury is meeting, indicating that he is a witness before it.
Pecker was known for “catch and kill” arrangements, in which the tabloid newspaper would pay money to sources to kill stories potentially damaging to friendly sources, and that is believed to have happened in the Daniels case.
Prosecutors have also sought to hear from both Donald Trump 2016 staffers and other Enquirer personnel.
Donald Trump As Good As Indicted? No.
“A conviction is not a sure thing, in part because a case could hinge on showing that Donald Trump and his company falsified records to hide the payout from voters days before the 2016 election, a low-level felony charge that would be based on a largely untested legal theory,” the Times said.
In addition, it could be a risk for the government to rely on testimony from former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, who has been convicted of lying to Congress.
But if Pecker has testified, that could represent corroborating evidence of how the payment scheme worked.
The district attorney’s office, the Times said, “appears to be focusing on whether erroneously classifying the payments to Mr. Cohen as a legal expense ran afoul of a New York law that prohibits the falsifying of business records.”
Bragg had reportedly decided not to pursue charges against Trump last February, when he first came into office, leading to two veteran prosecutors who had been working on the case leaving the office; one of them has since written a book, “People vs. Donald Trump,” which is set for publication soon, although Bragg has said that the book could complicate the criminal case against Trump. The office has since staffed up with prosecutors to work on the Trump case, including former DOJ prosecutor Matthew Colangelo.
The Manhattan DA’s office did, however, succeed in getting criminal convictions against both the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.
Last summer, per the Times, Bragg’s office sought to “jump-start” the Trump probe, with a focus on the Daniels payment. The office is also “continuing to scrutinize the way that the former president valued his assets.”
Will This Hurt Trump 2024?
The resurfacing of the Daniels story, even if it doesn’t lead to criminal charges, could hurt Trump politically as he seeks to ramp up his presidential campaign for 2024.
At a time when the former president has been slow to firm up evangelical leadership support for another run and has even been critical of that community for perceived disloyalty, it likely won’t help his case if headlines every day are about his alleged payments to a famous porn star, in relation to an extramarital affair.
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While an indictment in Manhattan is not assured, the latest development indicates that at least two Trump investigations, the one in New York and the one in Georgia involving 2020 election interference, are further along than the two matters currently being investigated by Special Counsel Jack Smith.
Those are the former president’s role in the January 6 attack, and his handling of classified documents, including his alleged obstruction of efforts to get the documents back.
Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.