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    Friday, April 19, 2024

    N.Y. grand jury not expected to hear evidence in Trump case until at least late April

    New York — A grand jury that has been considering former President Donald Trump's alleged role in $130,000 paid to an adult-film actress before the 2016 presidential election is not expected to hear evidence in that case again until late April, according to two people familiar with the matter.

    The pause comes about 10 days after Trump publicly predicted he would soon be arrested, stoking public interest. While the grand jury may hear other cases during the next week, the soonest jurors are expected to hear evidence in the Trump case again is April 24, said the two people, who were briefed on the plans and spoke on the condition of anonymity because grand jury proceedings are secret.

    The break is due in large part to a pre-scheduled two weeks off beginning April 10, the day after Easter, the people familiar with the matter said. The time off also covers Passover, which begins next Wednesday night, and part of Ramadan.

    Because the grand jury meets in private, it is difficult to know whether the pause reflects any change in the direction of the case — or whether District Attorney Alvin Bragg plans to ask the grand jurors to vote on an indictment, which he may do at any time. A spokesperson for Bragg declined to comment Wednesday.

    Karen Friedman Agnifilo, a former top official in the district attorney's office under Bragg's predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said the grand jury could be asked to vote on charges without hearing more evidence. Also, prosecutors could resume proceedings without difficulty even if no Trump-related evidence were presented for several weeks, she said.

    "I don't think the long break makes the DA's job more difficult at all," she said.

    Daniel R. Alonso, who was also a top deputy under Vance, said grand jurors also can have testimony read back to them if necessary to refresh their memories.

    "I have no doubt that in long-term investigations . . . they'll remember key parts of the testimony," Alonso said.

    Bragg's office has been investigating whether the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels during Trump's 2016 presidential campaign qualified as a campaign donation and should have been documented as such.

    The district attorney has been presenting evidence for weeks to a special grand jury that was convened to hear evidence against Trump and in other potential cases. Special grand juries sit for longer terms than regular panels — and this one is slated to sit until midsummer.

    The payments to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, were made by Trump's former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen. According to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss it, Bragg appears to be investigating whether Trump's reimbursement of Cohen was illegally documented as legal fees paid by Trump to Cohen.

    Cohen served more than a year in prison plus more time on pandemic-related home confinement of a three-year prison sentence for campaign finance fraud related to the payments. He also pleaded guilty in 2018 to crimes including tax evasion and lying to Congress.

    Trump and his attorneys deny any crime was committed. The Republican former president routinely says that the case brought by Bragg, who is a Democrat, and other criminal investigations unrelated to this are being conducted for political reasons.

    On Wednesday morning, Trump appeared to post about the pause by the grand jury on Truth Social, his social media platform. "I HAVE GAINED SUCH RESPECT FOR THIS GRAND JURY . . . PERHAPS EVEN THE GRAND JURY SYSTEM AS A WHOLE," he wrote.

    Beyond the New York probe, Trump is also under investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home and private club after his presidency, and for inspiring the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. A prosecutor in Georgia is separately investigating whether Trump illegally tried to interfere with the 2020 election results there.

    New York courts do not close for observances such as Passover, Ramadan and Good Friday, but activity in the courts generally slows down. In addition, New York City's public schools are closed from April 6 to April 14, covering Passover, Good Friday and spring break, as well as part of Ramadan, which ends in late April.

    Trump, who is still widely seen as the de facto head of the GOP, is campaigning as a candidate for the 2024 presidential election. At a rally in Waco, Texas, over the weekend, Trump said Bragg and his team of investigators were engaging in prosecutorial misconduct and claimed the Daniels matter was part of a pattern of politically motivated efforts against him.

    Trump has recently suggested violence would ensue if Bragg were to file charges. He also called for his followers to protest and "TAKE OUR NATION BACK" while incorrectly announcing that he was going to be arrested on March 21.

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