Manhattan grand jury investigating Trump hears from key witness
A Manhattan grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump's role in a "hush money" payment reconvened Monday and heard testimony from a central witness, according to sources familiar with the matter. But by the end of the day, the Manhattan district attorney had not communicated with Trump's legal team, according to Joe Tacopina, one of the former president's attorneys. Another Trump lawyer, Susan Necheles, also said there was no communication from the D.A. Monday evening.
David Pecker, the former CEO of American Media, Inc. (AMI) and publisher of The National Enquirer, was spotted entering the building where the grand jury was meeting and testified before the panel Monday afternoon, two sources said.
Just weeks before the 2016 election, Pecker played a key role in connecting a lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claimed she had an affair with Trump, with Michael Cohen, Trump's then-attorney. Cohen ultimately secured a non-disclosure agreement from Daniels in exchange for $130,000.
AMI was the parent company of The National Enquirer. In August 2016, the magazine bought the rights to the story of a woman who said she had an affair with Trump, but the outlet never published her account. The company later admitted the "catch and kill" tactic was designed to suppress the story and help Trump's election prospects. Pecker was CEO of AMI until 2020.
The grand jury last convened to discuss the Trump investigation on March 20, when it heard from attorney Robert Costello at the request of Trump's legal team.
Trump, who is again running for president, assailed the investigation during a campaign rally Saturday in Waco, Texas, claiming he's under investigation "for something that is not a crime, not a misdemeanor, not an affair." He has denied the affair and all allegations of wrongdoing in relation to the payment.
Trump previously incorrectly predicted his arrest would be last Tuesday, March 22, calling for protests that day. Tuesday came and went without an arrest, and with little unrest beyond a sparse group of supporters who rallied intermittently across the street from Manhattan Criminal Court.
A significant law enforcement presence has descended upon the Lower Manhattan neighborhood surrounding the court and district attorney's offices, with police barricading sidewalks and removing garbage cans around the buildings. Trump has repeatedly lashed out on his social media site, including warning that an indictment would lead to "potential death & destruction." He also posted an altered image on Truth Social depicting himself holding a baseball bat next to a photo of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The post was later removed.
There have been at least two hoax bomb threats made to Manhattan courts in the week since Trump's call for protests, and on Friday a mailroom employee at the District Attorney's Office in Manhattan opened an envelope addressed to Bragg that contained a white powder and a note. The powder was later determined not to be dangerous.
"Alvin, I am going to kill you," the note read, a law enforcement source said.
After the threat, 177 former federal prosecutors signed on to a statement condemning threats against Bragg and his office.
"As former prosecutors, we denounce efforts to intimidate the Manhattan District Attorney and we call upon all to support and protect prosecutorial independence and the rule of law," they wrote.
It is unclear when the grand jury will be asked to vote on a possible indictment.
In early March, Bragg's office invited Trump to appear before the grand jury — a move that in New York often signifies prosecutors are nearing an indictment decision. The investigation appears to be focused on whether the Daniels payment involved the falsification of business records and violated state campaign finance law.
The Manhattan case is one of at least four criminal investigations involving Trump. In Fulton County, Georgia, a special grand jury interviewed 75 witnesses as part of its six-month-long inquiry into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election, which Trump lost.
A report by the Georgia grand jury was given in January to Fulton County Fani Willis, who has not announced any charging decisions related to that investigation.
In Washington, D.C., on Friday, Trump attorney Evan Corcoran testified for more than three hours before a federal grand jury convened by special counsel Jack Smith. Corcoran testified after a federal judge ruled certain of his claims of attorney-client privilege were invalid under the "crime-fraud exception."
Smith is investigating potential mishandling of documents with classified markings as well as Trump's role in the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Trump has denied wrongdoing in connection with all of the probes, and accused investigators of conducting a "witch hunt."
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