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Report: Manhattan prosecutors signal criminal charges likely for Trump

Attorneys for former President Donald Trump have been told that Trump can testify before a Manhattan grand jury next week, four people familiar with the matter told The New York Times.

The grand jury has been hearing evidence regarding Trump's role in making hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who said she had an affair with him in 2006. This offer to testify is a strong sign an indictment is close, as potential defendants in New York have the right to testify before a grand jury prior to being indicted, and it's rare for a district attorney to notify a potential defendant without going on to seek charges, the Times reports. Most potential defendants choose not to appear before the grand jury.

Trump's former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 shortly before the 2016 presidential election, and was later reimbursed by Trump. Prosecutors in Manhattan began investigating the matter in 2018, and Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance charges for his role in the hush money payments, has spoken with them and is expected to testify before the grand jury.

If Trump does become the first former American president to be indicted, "convicting him or sending him to prison will be challenging," the Times says, because the case would be based on "an untested and therefore risky legal theory" of combining the criminal charge falsifying business records with a violation of state election law; prosecutors would argue that the $130,000 payment was an improper donation to Trump's campaign, as Daniels' silence benefited Trump's candidacy. Read more at The New York Times.