The team of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is starting this week to present evidence related to Donald Trump to a grand jury ahead of what could be criminal charges for the former president, according to a new report in The New York Times.
The district attorney is focusing, at least in large part, on the hush money provided ahead of the 2016 election to two women who said they had affairs with Trump, and driving the district attorney’s potential case against Trump could be the falsified records at the Trump Organization that hid the nature of reimbursements provided to Michael Cohen for some of that hush money, the Times explains. Cohen himself sent the money for Stephanie Clifford, an adult film star, after negotiations about the publication the National Enquirer purchasing the rights to her story (and then keeping it hidden) fell through. The publication made such a purchase involving a second woman, Karen McDougal, whose account is also now public.
On Monday, David Pecker, an ex-publisher of the Enquirer, was recorded entering a New York courthouse hosting the jury’s work, the Times reported. Two others who may testify as the case moves forward include Jeffrey McConney and Deborah Tarasoff, both of the Trump Organization — and both of whom were instrumental in setting up reimbursements for Cohen, who himself already completed a stint in jail on charges related to the hush money. The accusations against Cohen centered on how the hush money constituted indirect (but still substantive) donations in support of the Trump campaign, donations that far surpassed limits set for individuals supporting candidates. Elsewhere, McConney was among those implicated amid the criminal case against the Trump company and Allen Weisselberg for a years-long scheme concealing high-dollar perks provided to execs without the company or those benefiting paying required taxes, although he wasn’t charged.
Investigative work in the Manhattan district attorney’s office is also expanding beyond what they’re presenting to the grand jury, including with contacts of individuals who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign for president and demands for phone records. Although Cohen was also in touch with other figures in setting up the specifics of the arrangements, including with Clifford, who goes by Stormy Daniels, publicly available details including from Cohen have already implicated Trump in rather direct terms in the hush money deals. Additionally, Cohen was already back with prosecutors recently and is expected to reappear for further questioning. The Times notes that elevating the criminal charge for falsifying business records to a felony offense would take showing the behavior was undertaken in support of a second crime, a role in the legal equation that could be fulfilled by showing a violation of the election laws of New York.