The Manhattan district attorney's office has invited former President Donald Trump to testify before a grand jury investigating his role in the hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, according to The New York Times.
Such invitations almost always indicate an indictment is close, the newspaper reported, adding it would be unusual for District Attorney Alvin Bragg to notify a potential defendant without ultimately seeking charges against him.
"It seems likely that an indictment is coming soon," former federal prosecutor Barb McQuade told Salon. "I say that because the target is the last person prosecutors would want to question in an investigation after they have talked to everyone else, so that they could be as informed as possible."
The case centers around a $130,000 payment Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen made to Daniels in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign in an attempt to keep her from going public about an alleged affair she had with Trump before he ran for office. Cohen testified that he was later reimbursed by Trump.
"[If] prosecutors were planning to decline prosecution in this case, there would be no need to invite Trump in to testify," McQuade said. "For those reasons, it seems likely that an indictment is coming, and that it is coming soon."
Trump, who is facing multiple criminal investigations, including a DOJ probe into his handling of classified documents and a Georgia investigation into his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, has never been charged with a crime. Bragg could become the first prosecutor to charge a former president.
Trump took to Truth Social to push back on the report and dismiss the Manhattan probe as a "witch hunt" in a lengthy statement.
"I did absolutely nothing wrong, I never had an affair with Stormy Daniels, nor would I have wanted to have an affair with Stormy Daniels," Trump wrote. "This is a political Witch-Hunt, trying to take down the leading candidate, by far, in the Republican Party."
Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple federal crimes, including a campaign finance violation related to the payments to Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also claimed she had a months-long affair with Trump before he took office.
In his 2018 guilty plea, Cohen said Trump directed him to arrange payments for the two women during the 2016 campaign to keep them from speaking publicly about affairs they said they had with the former president.
Prosecutors are deciding whether to charge Trump with falsifying the business records of the Trump Organization for how it reflected the reimbursement of the payment to Cohen. While hush money payments aren't illegal, falsifying business records is a misdemeanor in New York.
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For the crime to be elevated to a felony, Bragg's prosecutors must show that Trump's "intent to defraud" included an intent to commit or conceal a second crime, The Times reported.
Trump's potential indictment could impact his political future, including his 2024 presidential campaign. Trump accused prosecutors of "trying to take down the leading candidate, by far, in the Republican Party while at the same time also leading all Democrats in the polls."
"Now, they fall back on the old, and rebuked case which has been rejected by every prosecutor's office that has looked at this Stormy 'Horseface' Daniels matter, where I relied on counsel in order to resolve this Extortion of me, which took place a long time ago," Trump wrote on Truth Social. "Since then, I have won lawsuits for hundreds of thousands of dollars against Stormy Daniels, and every prosecutors' office which has looked at it, which are numerous, including the FEC, have turned this fake case down. "
about the Manhattan DA probe