What to Know
- All eyes have been on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg regarding a potential Donald Trump indictment
- The DA's office hasn't given a reason for the delay; Trump announced to the globe March 18 that he expected to be arrested March 21 and urged his supporters to protest, though no arrest came and demonstrations largely appeared muted
- If the Manhattan grand jury were to indict Trump, it would mark the first criminal charges against a former or sitting U.S. president. Any charges, or conviction, though, wouldn't ban him from running
New York City is gearing up security again for possible action from the grand jury against former President Donald Trump, multiple law enforcement sources familiar with the preparations said Thursday.
Stressing the situational fluidity, the sources said the ramped-up security is related to the Manhattan district attorney's ongoing investigation into hush money payments involving porn star Stormy Daniels. Increased security presence is described as prudent with the grand jury sitting today, but it is unclear if they heard the Trump case Thursday or another matter.
It's also unclear if the grand jury will be asked to act before they go on a planned break next month. They're expected to convene again Monday and Wednesday.
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The NYPD previously directed officers of all ranks to wear uniforms on patrol and prepare to deploy as necessary. But late last week, the NYPD rescinded its directive that every officer report for duty in uniform - in case of a potential Donald Trump indictment or related protests - as situations changed and the grand jury heard from another witness.
David Pecker was the witness at Monday's grand jury hearing, NBC News confirms. He is the former CEO of American Media and publisher of National Enquirer. This was his second appearance before the grand jury.
The grand jury is typically scheduled to meet Monday and Wednesday. They've been secretly hearing evidence for months in the case. News 4 first reported that security plans were in development in the event an indictment could come, yet a day later, Trump told the globe he expected to be arrested on Tuesday, and no arrest came.
The 23 Manhattanites on the grand jury have been weighing charges against Trump but they were not expected to vote on a possible indictment in the hush money case this week, though the schedule could change, three sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
Early last week, they heard testimony from Trump ally Robert Costello, who sought to discredit key prosecution witness Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney and fixer, as "totally unreliable."
It's unclear if the testimony from Costello, who had waived immunity and thus could be prosecuted if he were to perjure himself, factored into Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's grand jury plans over these last few days.
Trump has vociferously equated the relative silence out of the Manhattan grand jury to "NO CASE." He taunted Bragg on his social media platform for much of the past few weeks, saying that Bragg "is doing the work of Anarchists and the Devil."
Earlier came a statement that read, "Total disarray in the Manhattan D.A.’s Office. Tremendous dissension and chaos because they have NO CASE, and many of the honest people in the Office know it, and want to do the right thing. They think back to the Late, Great, Bob Morgenthau, the best ever, and know what he would have done. JUSTICE FOR ALL!"
Bragg's office has declined comment, saying it cannot speak on grand jury matters.
It's unclear if any potential organized actions could intensify should the grand jury opt to indict Trump, which would be the first indictment of a sitting or former U.S. president in history. But with the pall of the Jan. 6 insurrection still looming large, the NYPD, and its law enforcement partners at all levels of government, are preparing accordingly.
What Happened? And What Happens Now?
Although the grand jury paused this week in its review of the case, former prosecutor Daniel Horwitz said he doesn't believe the delay is due to second thoughts about the credibility of Cohen, who has admitted to and served time in prison for lying about the payoff to the porn star.
"There’s a lot of criticism, questions about Michael Cohen. You know lots of white collar cases — almost every white collar case is made with insiders," Horwitz said.
Cohen says he is telling the truth about Trump and falsified documents to try to cover up the hush-money payments — which are not illegal. However, falsifying business records to protect a presidential campaign might be.
"After reviewing everything, if the DA still believes the evidence warrants the charge, then I would expect Bragg to file those charges," said trial attorney Robert Gottlieb.
Meanwhile, the world continues to wait.
Even if the Manhattan grand jury were to discuss Trump on Monday, it wouldn't guarantee a same-day potential indictment vote. Legal experts said it's a complicated case and every detail needs to be reviewed before proceeding.
Columbia law professor John Coffee suggested the law itself could be a problem for prosecutors because even if the district attorney can prove Trump falsely accounted for hush money to Daniels, that would only amount to a misdemeanor. Winning a low-level felony conviction could require connecting that to a federal crime.
"The New York statute says it’s a misdemeanor if you just falsify the records. It’s a felony if you falsify the record in order to conceal a crime. But if the crime is a federal crime that is a different ball of wax," said Coffee. "It is not at all clear that NY state has jurisdiction or authority to find a violation of a federal crime."
Federal prosecutors had said the payments amounted to illegal, unreported assistance to Trump’s campaign. But they declined to file charges against Trump himself. The ex-president has denied all allegations against him.