According to two people with knowledge of the situation who spoke to The Associated Press, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s longtime fixer and attorney, will go before a Manhattan grand jury on Monday to testify about hush-money payments he made on the former president’s behalf. They spoke under the condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss grand jury proceedings in public.
In Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg‘s investigation, Michael Cohen is a crucial witness, and his testimony comes at a crucial moment as prosecutors near a decision on whether to charge Trump. Sometimes, prosecutors hold off calling their most crucial witnesses until the very end of a grand jury inquiry.
As part of his preparation for his appearance before the grand jury, which has been hearing testimony in the case since January, Cohen has been meeting regularly with Manhattan prosecutors in recent weeks, including a day-long meeting on Friday.
Michael Cohen told reporters as he departed the meeting that he would not be making any comments and that he would instead “take a little bit of time to stay silent and enable the D.A. construct their case.”
The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which has so far refrained from commenting on the inquiry, likewise refrained from commenting on whether Cohen would provide a grand jury testimony.
In his latest tirade against the investigation, Trump referred to it as a “Scam, Injustice, Mockery, and Full and Utter Weaponization of Law Enforcement in trying to effect a Presidential Election” on social media on Friday.
Authorities seem to be investigating whether Trump committed crimes while arranging the payments or when the payments were handled internally at his business, the Trump Organization. Falsifying company records, a misdemeanor unless prosecutors can show it was done to hide another crime, is one possible charge.
No former president of the United States has ever faced criminal charges.
Another indication that the investigation’s initial phase is coming to an end is that prosecutors last week invited Trump to testify before the grand jury. One of the final actions prior to a potential indictment is often asking the subject of an inquiry to appear before a grand jury.
According to New York law, Trump is permitted to testify, but legal experts predict that he won’t do so since it wouldn’t help his case and he’d have to give up the automatic immunity that grand jury witnesses receive under state law.
After entering a plea deal to federal charges in 2018, including campaign finance violations, for orchestrating payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal to prevent them from getting public, Cohen was sentenced to prison. Trump has refuted the relationships.
Daniels received a $130,000 payment from Michael Cohen through his own business, which was then reimbursed by Trump, whose business recorded the payments as “legal expenditures.” The National Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid whose publisher made McDougal’s $150,000 payment, suppressed her story in a questionable journalistic tactic known as “catch-and-kill.”
Federal prosecutors allege that the Trump Organization “grossed up” Cohen’s reimbursement for the Daniels payment for “tax purposes” after the lawyer was charged with fraud in connection with the payments in 2018. Cohen received $420,000 in total, which included a bonus of $60,000.
In Cohen’s criminal prosecution, federal prosecutors said that Trump was aware of the payments made to the women. But, the New York U.S. attorney’s office decided not to press charges against the president who was in office at the time.
Michael Cohen, who is currently estranged from Trump, has met with prosecutors 20 times during the course of the hush-money investigation’s various phases. In order to obtain evidence, including voice recordings of discussions he had with a lawyer for Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford), he turned over his cell phones to Manhattan prosecutors in January.
In recent weeks, several members of Trump’s closest circle, such as his former political advisor Kellyanne Conway and former spokeswoman Hope Hicks, have visited with Manhattan prosecutors.