NY prosecutors invite Trump to testify in hush money investigation as probe nears end

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Manhattan prosecutors have invited former President Donald Trump to appear before the grand jury investigating his alleged role in a hush money payment scheme and cover-up, a person familiar with the matter said, indicating the investigation is nearing a conclusion.

Potential defendants in New York are required by law to be notified and invited to appear before a grand jury weighing charges. It is unclear if Trump would appear.

The New York Times first reported the development.

Trump would be the first former president ever indicted and also the first major presidential candidate under indictment seeking office. He has said he “wouldn’t even think about leaving” the race if charged.

Trump is facing criminal inquiries related to his activities before, during and after his presidency.

In addition to the New York City investigation, Fulton County, Georgia, prosecutors have been probing the effort by Trump and his allies to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results, and a Justice Department special counsel is investigating Trump’s role in the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and Trump’s handling of classified material after he left office.

Trump’s lawyer recently met with the district attorney’s office, one source told CNN. His legal team has been concerned with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s intentions because of recently ramped up activity at the grand jury, according to another source familiar with the matter. Former Trump White House aides Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway recently appeared before the grand jury.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment to CNN.

“The Manhattan District Attorney’s threat to indict President Trump is simply insane. 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,” Trump’s spokesman said in a statement to CNN.

The investigation relates to a $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in late October 2016, days before the 2016 presidential election, to silence her from going public about an alleged affair with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has denied the affair.

In a lengthy response on his Truth Social account Thursday night, Trump said in part, “I did absolutely nothing wrong, I never had an affair with Stormy Daniels.”

Hush money payments aren’t illegal. Prosecutors are weighing whether to charge Trump with falsifying the business records of the Trump Organization for how it reflected the reimbursement of the payment to Michael Cohen, Trump’s then-fixer who said he advanced the money to Daniels. Falsifying business records is a misdemeanor in New York.

Prosecutors are also weighing whether to charge Trump with falsifying business records in the first degree for falsifying a record with the intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal another crime, which in this case could be a violation of campaign finance laws. That is a Class E felony and carries a sentence of a minimum of one year and as much as four years.

A source familiar with the matter told CNN’s Don Lemon that Cohen – Trump’s former personal attorney who pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance charges for facilitating the $130,000 payment to Daniels – is expected to to provide additional testimony at the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Monday.

That would mark Cohen’s 20th appearance before the district attorney’s office, including appearances when Bragg’s predecessor Cy Vance was in office.

The Trump Organization noted the reimbursements as a legal expense in its internal books. Trump has previously denied knowledge of the payment.

If the district attorney’s office moves forward with charges, it’s not without risk. Trump’s lawyers could challenge whether campaign finance laws would apply as a crime to make the case a felony.

CNN reported last month that Jeffrey McConney, the controller of the Trump Organization, would appear in front of the grand jury, according to people familiar with matter. McConney is one of the highest-ranking financial officers at the Trump Organization and has responsibility for its books and records.