HomeTop StoriesHow Trump's long-running hush money investigation evolved as Manhattan's DA Bragg closes...

How Trump’s long-running hush money investigation evolved as Manhattan’s DA Bragg closes in on potential charges against ex-President

More than four years after its launch, the Manhattan District Attorney’s lengthy criminal investigation into Donald Trump may be on the verge of producing the first-ever criminal indictment against a former U.S. president.

District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has been presenting evidence to a grand jury since January. The panel is supposed to hear about the infamous $130,000 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence over an extramarital affair with Trump.

Sources close to the investigation say the prosecutor is investigating whether Trump committed felony-level crimes in repaying his longtime fixer Michael Cohen for paying Daniels on the eve of the 2016 presidential election to secure victory. Cohen went to jail for the payout, his federal case details how he carried it out when Daniels was ready to go public with her allegations that she slept with Trump at a 2006 Lake Tahoe charity golf tournament.

Bragg’s office is tight-lipped about the confidential grand jury investigation, and there’s no telling if the panel of New Yorkers will vote to indict Trump. The former president has speculated that his arrest is imminent, but sources with direct knowledge say he has not been notified of any charges arising from the ongoing investigation.

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But Cohen’s recent testimony, a grand jury invitation to Trump — which he declined — and prosecutors who interviewed Daniels, Kellyanne Conway, Hope Hicks and several Trump associates related to the hush money deal have led to speculation that the prosecutor is underway. are about to decide whether to indict Trump once and for all.

The possible charges come after a long-running investigation into Trump’s hush money and alleged illegal business practices.

The extensive investigation made it to the U.S. Supreme Court twice — with the Trump-appointed panel firing the president both times — and branched into criminal tax fraud cases against the Trump Organization and its longtime chief of finance Allen Weisselberg. The company was fined $1.6 million in January following his conviction at trial, and Weisselberg is serving a five-month prison sentence at Rikers.

Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr., launched the investigation shortly after Cohen’s 2018 federal conviction for tax evasion, making illegal campaign contributions and lying to Congress and a financial institution. After his guilty plea, Cohen continued to sing and showed lawmakers checks signed by Trump as compensation for paying Daniels when he testified before the House Oversight committee.

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During legal battles over Trump’s taxes, Vance’s office revealed that the investigation also examined Cohen’s claims that Trump had spent years manipulating the value of assets such as golf clubs, resorts and skyscrapers by hundreds of millions of dollars to get better loans and tax breaks. .

The New York Attorney General’s office eventually brought the large-scale financial fraud case against Trump and his adult children, all executives in the company, into a $250 million civil lawsuit filed in September.

AG Letitia James’s indictment accuses Trump of overestimating his net worth by more than a billion dollars and habitually engaging in rampant tax fraud, banking fraud and corporate fraud as head of the Trump Organization. James had two investigators embedded in the Manhattan District Attorney’s probe.

Why Bragg chose to refocus on the most lustful element of the extended probe – or whether he left other areas for good – remains to be seen.

When he took office in early 2022, the district attorney’s different approach to his predecessor came under scrutiny when investigators hired by Vance quit in protest, alleging that Bragg refused to authorize charges against Trump despite evidence that he had broken the law.

The Grand Jury’s testimony is confidential, but the hush money deal has long been public knowledge. According to Cohen’s 2018 guilty plea, Trump directed him to pay off Daniels “for the primary purpose of influencing the election,” and Cohen drew the money from an equity line of credit and transferred it to Daniels through a shell company.

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Trump got the bill after becoming president and paid Cohen back with interest in monthly checks totaling $420,000 by the end of 2017, according to the FBI’s case. Cohen then falsely billed the company for an “advance payment” that the Trump Organization falsely recorded on its books as “legal fees.”

When pressured Bragg to explain his strategies regarding the Trump investigation last spring, the district attorney insisted it stay alive and that he would meet the American people once a decision was made whether or not to indict Trump.

“I unequivocally pledge that the Bureau will publicly disclose the conclusion of our investigation — whether we end our work without filing charges, or proceed with an indictment,” Bragg said in April.

On Saturday, Trump said he expects that conclusion could come as early as this week, then called on supporters to “protest” his arrest.

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