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    Tuesday, February 20, 2024

    Trump grand jury turns to other matters, done for the week

    Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg arrives at his office, Thursday, March 23, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
    New York City police officers with the canine unit sweep the Manhattan criminal court building before it opens Thursday, March 23, 2023, in New York. A New York grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump over a hush money payment to a porn star appears poised to complete its work soon as law enforcement officials make preparations for possible unrest in the event of an indictment. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
    Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, March 4, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. The Manhattan grand jury investigating Trump over hush money payments during his 2016 presidential campaign did not meet Wednesday, March 22, despite that being one of the days each week when the panel ordinarily convenes, according to four people familiar with the matter. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

    NEW YORK (AP) — The Manhattan grand jury investigating Donald Trump over hush money payments turned to other matters on Thursday, delaying until next week at the earliest any vote on a historic indictment of the former president, according to a person familiar with the matter. The panel does not meet on Fridays.

    It was not clear whether prosecutors planned to question more witnesses before the grand jurors next week or when a vote might be taken about possibly indicting Trump.

    The New York panel is an investigative grand jury. That means it hears other cases beyond the highly publicized one focused on hush money paid on Trump’s behalf during the 2016 presidential campaign to a porn actor who says she had a sexual encounter with him years earlier.

    Even so, the timing has given an opening to the former president and supporters to claim the investigation is somehow stalled. Trump, who has denied any sexual encounter with Stormy Daniels, raised the specter on his social media site of “years of hatred, chaos and turmoil” if charges are brought.

    In keeping with the secret nature of the grand jury process, prosecutors also on Thursday rebuffed a request from House Republicans for records and testimony on the investigation, a request that the general counsel to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg called an “unlawful incursion into New York’s sovereignty.”

    The prosecutors said Trump himself had created “a false expectation” of being arrested this week, and they offered no update on the timing for any possible action

    The grand jury does not ordinarily meet on Fridays. It did not convene at all on Wednesday, and on Thursday it considered matters other than the Trump probe, said a person who was knowledgeable about the situation but who was not authorized to discuss the secret proceedings and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    There was no explanation from prosecutors on why the panel had not met on Wednesday or heard from Trump-related witnesses on Thursday.

    Grand jury proceedings are closed to the pubic including the media, with prosecutors prevented by law from sharing any details of what takes place. Still, these proceedings have captivated public attention, each development magnified because the presumed target is a former president and because Trump declared he expected to be arrested.

    Security is heavy outside the grand jury location as well as Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Demonstrators for and against him wave big signs and chant.

    Limited snapshots of the investigation have largely come from witnesses and their attorneys, who don't share the secrecy obligation. Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and fixer and a key government witness in this case, has spoken publicly about his appearances, as has another recent witness, Robert Costello, an attorney who presented testimony aimed at undermining Cohen's credibility.

    The district attorney's office, which is leading the investigation, has offered no public indication of future timing.

    In a letter sent Thursday to Republican lawmakers who sought documents and testimony about the investigation, the office's general counsel, Leslie Dudek, wrote that Trump had “created a false expectation” on the timing of an arrest, and Dudek reiterated prosecutors' obligation to preserve the secrecy of the investigation.

    "These confidentiality provisions exist to protect the interests of the various participants in the criminal process — the defendant, the witnesses and members of the grand jury — as well as the integrity of the grand jury proceeding itself," the letter said.

    ____

    Tucker reported from Washington.

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