NEW YORK: Law enforcement officials in New York are making security preparations for the possibility that former President Donald Trump could be indicted in the coming weeks and appear in a Manhattan courtroom in an investigation examining hush money paid to women who alleged sexual encounters with him, four law enforcement officials said Friday.
There has been no public announcement of any timeframe for the grand jury's secret work, including any potential vote on whether to indict the ex-president. The law enforcement officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said authorities are just preparing in case of an indictment. They described the conversations as preliminary and are considering security, planning and the practicalities of a potential court appearance by a former president. Trump's lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, told The Associated Press that if Trump is indicted, “we will follow the normal procedures.” The Manhattan district attorney's office had no comment. A message was left for court administrators. The grand jury has been hearing from witnesses including former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who says he orchestrated payments in 2016 to two women to silence them about sexual encounters they said they had with Trump a decade earlier. Trump denies the encounters occurred, says he did nothing wrong and has cast the investigation as a “witch hunt” by a Democratic prosecutor bent on sabotaging the Republican's 2024 presidential campaign. “Democrats have investigated and attacked President Trump since before he was elected — and they've failed every time,” campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement Thursday about the inquiry. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office has apparently been examining whether any state laws were broken in connection with the payments or the way Trump's company compensated Cohen for his work to keep the women's allegations quiet. Daniels and at least two former Trump aides — onetime political adviser Kellyanne Conway and former spokesperson Hope Hicks — are among witnesses who have met with prosecutors in recent weeks. Cohen has said that at Trump's direction, he arranged payments totaling $280,000 to porn actor Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. According to Cohen, the payouts were to buy their silence about Trump, who was then in the thick of his first presidential campaign. Cohen and federal prosecutors said the company paid him $420,000 to reimburse him for the $130,000 payment to Daniels and to cover bonuses and other supposed expenses. The company classified those payments internally as legal expenses.
The $150,000 payment to McDougal was made by the then-publisher of the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer, which kept her story from coming to light. Federal prosecutors agreed not to prosecute the Enquirer's corporate parent in exchange for its cooperation in a campaign finance investigation that led to charges against Cohen in 2018. Prosecutors said the payments to Daniels and McDougal amounted to impermissible, unrecorded gifts to Trump's election effort. Cohen pleaded guilty, served prison time and was disbarred. Federal prosecutors never charged Trump with any crime.
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