(Trends Wide) — A year-long investigation into tax fraud involving former President Donald Trump and adult film star Stormy Daniels may be coming to an end.
Trump announced Saturday on social media that he anticipates being arrested Tuesday in connection with the case, though a spokesman for the former president said his team has not received any updates from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is in charge of the investigation.
Trends Wide’s John Miller reported Friday that law enforcement agencies in New York have been holding meetings about how to prepare in case Trump is impeached. The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment Saturday following Trump’s posts.
An indictment against Trump would be historic, as it would mark the first time a former US president and major presidential candidate has been criminally charged.
Here’s what you need to know about tax fraud investigation.
How’s the investigation going?
Prosecutors from District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office recently asked Trump to appear before the grand jury investigating the matter.
The request represented the clearest indication yet that investigators were about to make a decision on whether to take the unprecedented step of indicting a former president, as potential defendants in New York are required by law to be notified and invited. to appear before a grand jury to assess the charges.
The Manhattan district attorney’s investigation began with Bragg’s predecessor, Cy Vance, when Trump was still in the White House. It relates to a $130,000 payment made by Trump’s then-personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to Daniels in late October 2016, days before the 2016 presidential election, to silence her and prevent her from going public with an alleged affair with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has denied the affair.
At issue in the investigation is the payment made to Daniels and the Trump Organization’s reimbursement to Cohen.
According to court documents in Cohen’s own US attorney’s office, Trump Org. the executives authorized him payments totaling $420,000 to cover his original $130,000 pay and tax obligations and rewarded him with a bonus.
The Manhattan district attorney’s investigation has loomed over Trump since his presidency, and is just one of several investigations facing the former president in his third run for the White House.
The possible crimes at stake
Hush money payments are not illegal. Prosecutors are weighing whether to charge Trump with falsifying Trump Organization business records because of how he mirrored the payment refund to Cohen, who said he advanced the money to Daniels. Falsifying business records is a misdemeanor in New York.
Prosecutors are also weighing whether to charge Trump with Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree for falsifying a record with the intent to commit another crime or aiding or concealing another crime, which in this case could be a violation of campaign finance laws. That is a Class E felony and carries a sentence of a minimum of one year and up to four years. To prove the case, prosecutors would have to show that Trump intended to commit a crime.
The Trump Organization recorded the refunds as a legal expense in its internal books. Trump has previously denied any knowledge of the payment.
a rare case
If the district attorney’s office goes ahead with the charges, it would represent a rare moment in history: Trump would be the first former US president to be indicted and also the first major presidential candidate under indictment seeking office.
The former president has said he “wouldn’t even think about dropping out” of the 2024 race if he is indicted.
The decision to press charges would not be without risk or guarantee a conviction. Trump’s lawyers could question whether campaign finance laws would apply as a crime to make the case a felony, for example.
What Trump has said
In a lengthy reply on his Truth Social account earlier this month, Trump said in part: “I did absolutely nothing wrong, I never had an affair with Stormy Daniels.”
On Saturday, a spokesman said Trump was “rightfully highlighting his innocence” by calling on his supporters to protest if he is impeached.
A Trump lawyer said earlier this month that any prosecution related to hush money payments to an adult film star would be “completely unprecedented” and accused the Manhattan district attorney of attacking the former president for “ political reasons and personal animosity”.
Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, said in a statement shared with Trends Wide that the campaign finance laws in this case, which is related to allegations from seven years ago, are “murky” and that the legal theories underlying a possible case “have not been tested.”
“This District Attorney and the former District Attorney have trawled every aspect of President Trump’s personal life and business affairs for years in search of a crime and it must be stopped. This is simply not what our justice system is about,” Tacopina said.
Cohen’s role in the scheme
Cohen played a central role in the secret money episode and is involved in the investigation.
He admitted paying Daniels $130,000 to prevent her from going public with the alleged affair with Trump just before the 2016 election. He also helped arrange a $150,000 payment from the editor of the National Enquirer to Karen McDougal to kill her story in the one who claimed to be having a 10-month affair with Trump. The former president also denied having an affair with McDougal.
Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to eight counts, including two counts of campaign finance violations for orchestrating or making payments during the 2016 campaign.
Cohen met with the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Friday and will also appear on Monday.
Speaking to reporters as he walked into court on Friday, Cohen said he has not yet testified in front of a grand jury.
“I have to applaud District Attorney Bragg for giving Donald the opportunity to come in and tell his story,” he said. “Now, knowing Donald as well as I do, you have to understand that he doesn’t tell the truth. It is one thing to turn around and lie in your ‘Untruth Social’ and another thing to turn around and lie before a grand jury. So I don’t suspect that he will come.
What Daniels has said
For her part, Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford, said in 2021 that she had not yet testified in the investigation but would “love nothing more than” to be interviewed by prosecutors investigating the Trump Organization.
Daniels said at the time that his lawyer has been in contact with investigators in Manhattan and New York and has met with them about other issues. He said that if they asked him to speak to investigators or a grand jury, “I would tell them everything I know.”
She wrote a tell-all book in 2018 that described the alleged affair in explicit detail, and her then-attorney said the book was intended to prove her story about having sex with Trump is true.
what comes next
Bragg’s research has progressed in recent months as he neared this latest development.
Trump’s lawyer recently met with the district attorney’s office, a source told Trends Wide. His legal team became concerned about Bragg’s intentions because of the recent increase in grand jury activity, according to another source familiar with the matter.
Former Trump White House aides Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway recently appeared before the grand jury. And Trends Wide reported last month that Jeffrey McConney, the Trump Organization’s comptroller, would also appear, according to people familiar with the matter.
McConney is one of the most senior financial officials in the Trump Organization and has responsibility for its books and records.
Trump’s lawyers are likely to be offered the opportunity to persuade the district attorney’s team that an indictment is not warranted.