New York prosecutors offer Trump a chance to testify before grand jury
"Such offers are triggered by a request from a potential defendant, and could signal the long-running probe is nearing completion
NEW YORK — Former president Donald Trump has been invited by the Manhattan district attorney to appear next week before a grand jury investigating his business affairs, an offer that may mark a significant development years after the start of the probe, three people with knowledge of the proceedings said Thursday.
They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.
The grand jury notification — alerting Trump of his opportunity to appear before the secret panel — could signify that the state prosecutor’s investigation is winding down. It remains unclear whether Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg will seek an indictment at the end of the process.
In New York state, the target of a criminal investigation that has not yet resulted in an arrest can request this type of notification when a case against them is being heard by a grand jury — if they know independently that proceedings are underway. The requirement is designed to give the target a chance to be heard by the panel in his own defense. Defense attorneys generally consider it risky for a client to testify in that scenario.
“Everyone will advise him not to go in,” said a Trump adviser who is one of the three people with knowledge of the situation that confirmed the notification. “We’ll see what he does.” The notification was first reported by the New York Times.
Bragg’s office convened the grand jury to evaluate business-related matters including Trump’s role in hush money payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign that were classified as a legal expense, people with knowledge of the investigation have said. The long-running probe appeared to gain traction in recent months after seeming dormant for much of last year.
A spokeswoman for the district attorney declined to comment.
Trump issued a lengthy, rambling statement in which he denied having an affair with Daniels and accused prosecutors of trying to “get Trump."
If charges are brought in connection to payoffs, they would likely focus on the alleged creation of false records to conceal the nature of the funds paid to Daniels. Michael Cohen, a former Trump lawyer, has said he fronted the money involved in the transactions and was reimbursed by his then-boss. Falsifying business records is generally a misdemeanor in New York, but prosecutors can bring a felony charge if the fabrication was done to conceal or advance another crime.
In recent weeks, a flurry of witnesses have met with prosecutors, according to news reports. Cohen, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance charges related to the Daniels payments and was sentenced to three years in prison for those and other crimes, said Thursday that he has not yet appeared in front of the grand jury but is scheduled to meet with investigators from the district attorney’s office on Friday, for the 20th time.
Trump, a Republican, and his lawyers have repeatedly accused Bragg and his predecessor Cyrus R. Vance Jr., both Democrats, of engaging in a politically-motivated probe. Trump accused New York Attorney General Letitia James, also a Democrat, of the same after she filed a $250 million lawsuit against him, three of his adult children, Weisselberg and the company in September.
The district attorney’s investigation began in 2019 and resulted in a Supreme Court battle over access to Trump’s tax returns and associated records, which were ultimately turned over to Vance’s office.
At the start of Bragg’s tenure in 2022, he declined a push by senior prosecutors to ask a previous grand jury to indict Trump for defrauding lenders and insurance companies by lying about the true value of his properties and other assets. Bragg said at the time that his office would continue to investigate the former president, and a fresh roster of lawyers got involved in the case.
Vance had earlier considered pursuing charges against Trump related to Daniels. But his office ruled that out as a viable option and moved onto other matters, including the Trump Organization’s tax practices and asset valuations.
On Thursday, Trump said Bragg was falling back on an “old and rebuked case which has been rejected by every prosecutor’s office that has looked.”
The Trump Organization was indicted on tax fraud and related counts and convicted in December. In that proceeding, longtime company executive Allen Weisselberg testified against the company under a plea agreement that provided he would serve five months in jail in exchange for his assistance at the trial. He had been facing up to 15 years in prison after dodging taxes on $1.7 million in income.
The company was ordered to pay a $1.6 million fine to the state, the largest amount allowable under New York law.
Trump announced his 2024 candidacy for president in November. He also faces other law enforcement investigations, including Justice Department probes involving classified documents taken to his Mar-a-Lago estate and his role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
In Georgia, an Atlanta-area district attorney is investigating whether Trump and his allies broke the law when they sought to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia. Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) said in January that charging decisions in that case are “imminent.”
Dawsey reported from Washington. Isaac Arnsdorf contributed to this report."