Prosecutors have signaled to Donald Trump that he could face criminal charges for making a hush money payment to the adult film actor and director Stormy Daniels, it was reported on Thursday.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office has offered the ex-president the chance to testify next week before the grand jury that has been listening to evidence in the potential case, the New York Times said, citing four anonymous sources.
Although Trump is thought likely to turn down the offer, the fact that the district attorney, Alvin Bragg, made the approach indicates how gravely he is at risk of becoming the first former president in American history to be indicted.
The revelation also deals a fresh blow to Trump as he mounts a third consecutive bid for the White House, potentially putting his political ambitions and legal problems on collision course.
A spokesperson for Trump described the district attorney’s threat to indict Trump as “simply insane”, adding: “For the past five years, the DA’s office has been on a witch-hunt, investigating every aspect of President Trump’s life, and they’ve come up empty at every turn – and now this.”
Daniels, who was born Stephanie Clifford but prefers to use her stage name, claims to have had sex with Trump – who was married – in Nevada in 2006. He denied the allegation but his longtime fixer Michael Cohen made a $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels, which Trump reimbursed, near the end of the 2016 election campaign.
Cohen later pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance violations linked to the payment, which he alleged was made “in coordination with, and at the direction of” Trump.
A long-running investigation into Trump’s role in the case seemed to lose momentum and became eclipsed by legal controversies around Trump’s retention of classified documents and efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
But it emerged in January that Bragg had made the surprise move to impanel a grand jury to hear evidence in the Daniels case.
Stormy Daniels. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
On Thursday, the New York Times reported that at least six people have testified before the grand jury and that Cohen is expected to do so. But the paper also noted that, even if Trump is indicted, convicting him or sending him to prison would be “challenging”, since the case against him “hinges on an untested and therefore risky legal theory involving a complex interplay of laws, all amounting to a low-level felony”. Such a conviction could result in a maximum prison sentence of four years.
Trump is the first declared candidate for president in 2024 and has since been joined by Nikki Haley, his former ambassador to the UN, in the Republican primary race. Most opinion polls show Trump ahead of potential rivals including the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis.
Last Saturday, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Maryland, Trump hurled insults and railed against Bragg as a “racist DA” being pushed by “radical left Democrats, the fake news media, and the department of injustice to bring charges against me for now ancient, no affair story of Stormy Horseface Daniels”.
He continued: “No attraction, no affair, I call it no affair, where there’s no crime anyway. And charges have never been brought in such a case before, and this case has been looked by every prosecutor – they’re all looking, they’ve looked at it for years now … and all they do is they cause anger and problems for our country, because our people aren’t going to take this stuff.”
Trump’s other legal problems continue to mount. The former president also faces justice department special counsel investigations over classified documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last summer, and his efforts to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election.
In Georgia, the Fulton county district attorney is investigating whether Trump interfered in the 2020 election in the state. The New York attorney general, Letitia James, is suing Trump and the Trump Organization, saying it misled banks and tax authorities about the value of assets like golf courses and skyscrapers to get loans and tax benefits.
Hugo Lowell contributed reporting
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