It’s still possible that former President Donald Trump could face criminal charges in a case related to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who claims she had a fling with him in the early 2000s.
Specifically, New York City prosecutor Alvin Bragg has made some moves suggesting charges are forthcoming in relation to a $130,000 hush payment to Daniels from Trump ahead of the 2016 election, The Hill reported on Sunday. Last week, he empaneled another grand jury and presented some witnesses, the outlet added.
A former colleague of Bragg’s, as well as some legal experts, say the empanelment means he is getting closer to filing formal charges.
“If they actually are presenting witnesses, the first thing I said is, ‘Oh, this is real. They’re going for it,’” Catherine Christian, a former financial fraud prosecutor in Bragg’s office who was not involved in the investigation, told The Hill.
Meanwhile, Trump has downplayed the developments in several Truth Social posts, imploring Bragg to focus on rising crime in New York City instead. He also called the case a witch hunt and made reference to the statute of limitations, which refers to a time window during which charges can be brought.
“Some Radical Left crazies, coupled with ‘ratings crushed’ and failing Fake News, are trying to get [Bragg] to go the prosecutorial misconduct route, and take on certain very weak cases which are dead anyway based on the Statute of Limitations. FIGHT VIOLENT CRIME!” Trump posted on Wednesday.
The Hill noted further:
The controversy surrounding Trump and Daniels began when Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, made a $130,000 payment to Daniels in October 2016 to stop her from publicly alleging she had an affair with Trump. Trump has denied the affair.
Cohen later pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance violations. He claimed that Trump directed him to make the payment and that Trump reimbursed him in monthly installments that included a bonus, even presenting one of the purported checks to lawmakers at a 2019 committee hearing.
The outlet reported that Bragg could try to make a case involving state charges of falsification of business records against Trump if his office can demonstrate that the former president, with an attempt to defraud, was personally involved with illegally designating Cohen’s reimbursements as an itemized legal expense.
A misdemeanor conviction for said offense would carry a jail term of up to a year, but a felony conviction could involve as much as four years behind bars.
“For prosecutors to pursue the charge, they would additionally need to show the fraud included an intent to commit another crime,” The Hill reported. “Legal experts suggest that could involve breaking state campaign finance or tax laws, but they questioned if a federal campaign finance violation would suffice.”
Christian said she did not think that Bragg would move ahead empowering a grand jury if the statute of limitations had run out.
“I assume — these are very competent people — they found a reason why it was tolled in this case, possibly because he’s been out of the jurisdiction,” she told The Hill.
It’s also possible the grand jury does not return any charges, which is what happened with an earlier NYC probe into Trump.