Cohen to testify before grand jury in Trump secret money investigation

NEW YORK (AP) — Former Donald Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen is set to testify Monday before a Manhattan grand jury investigating money payments he arranged and made on behalf of the former president.

Cohen’s impending grand jury appearance was confirmed by two people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly about the grand jury proceedings and did so on condition of anonymity.

Cohen’s closed-door testimony comes at a critical time as the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office nears a decision on whether to bring charges against Trump.

A Trump loyalist turned adversary, Cohen is likely to provide critical details about the involvement the Republican presidential candidate may have had in payments, made in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign, to two women who alleged relationship with him.

Cohen provided evidence to prosecutors, including voice recordings of conversations he had with an attorney for one of the women, as well as emails and text messages. He also has recordings of a conversation in which he and Trump discussed an arrangement to pay the other woman through the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid.

Prosecutors appear to be looking into whether Trump committed crimes in how the payments were made or how they were accounted for internally at Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.

A possible charge would be falsifying business records, a misdemeanor unless prosecutors can prove it was done to cover up another crime. No former US president has ever been charged with a crime.

Appearing Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Trump’s attorney Joseph Tacopina said the former president was unlikely to accept an invitation, extended by prosecutors last week, to testify before the grand jury. .

“We do not intend to participate in this procedure,” Tacopina said. “It’s a decision that has yet to be made. No deadline has been set, so we’ll wait and see.

Tacopina also accuses the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office of prosecutorial misconduct, writing in a letter to the New York Inspector General that prosecutors are engaging in a “flagrant and unconstitutional” attempt to obstruct Trump’s chances in the 2024 presidential election. Tacopina is asking the city’s investigative department to investigate what it considers an “overt political prosecution.”

A message seeking comment was left with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly tried to bring in New York and Florida judges or halt investigations into Trump and the Trump Organization, arguing they were politically motivated. All these attempts failed.

Cohen served time in prison after pleading guilty in 2018 to federal charges, including campaign finance violations, for arranging payments to porn actor Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal to keep them from becoming public. He was also struck off.

Trump’s lawyers could point to these factors in an effort to undermine Cohen’s credibility, if the former president is indicted and Cohen ends up testifying at trial.

Cohen has met regularly with Manhattan prosecutors in recent weeks, including a one-day session on Friday to prepare for his grand jury appearance.

The panel has been hearing evidence since January in what Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg called the “next chapter” in his office’s years-long Trump investigation. But silent money payments — perhaps the most salacious of investigative leads on Trump — are familiar ground.

Federal prosecutors and Bragg’s predecessor in the prosecutor’s office, Cyrus Vance Jr., each reviewed the payments but did not indict Trump.

Cohen declined to comment to reporters as he left the meeting, saying he would “take some time now to keep quiet and allow the prosecutor to build his case.”

On Friday, Trump continued to lashed out at the investigation on social media, calling the case a “scam, injustice, mockery and full and total arming of law enforcement in order to affect a presidential election!”

Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 through his own company and was later reimbursed by Trump, whose company recorded the reimbursements as “legal fees.”

McDougal’s $150,000 payment was made through the publisher of the National Enquirer, who smothered her story in a dubious journalistic practice known as “catch-and-kill.”

According to the federal prosecutors who charged Cohen, the Trump Organization then “grossed up” Cohen’s reimbursement for paying Daniels for “tax purposes,” giving him $360,000 plus a $60,000 bonus, for a total of $420,000.


Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.


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