22nd March 2023 – (Washington) Barricades were erected around a Manhattan courthouse on Monday as New York City braced for a possible indictment of former U.S. President Donald Trump over an alleged hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign. The grand jury heard further testimony on Monday and could bring charges as soon as this week. If charged, Trump would likely have to travel from his Florida home for fingerprinting and other processing. Law enforcement officials met on Monday to discuss the logistics.
On Saturday, Trump urged followers on social media to protest what he said was his looming arrest. In his call for protests, Trump raised concerns for law enforcement that supporters might engage in violence similar to the 6th January, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Fearing a trap, however, several far-right grassroots groups have opted not to heed his call, security analysts said.
On Monday, the grand jury heard from a witness, lawyer Robert Costello, who said Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen had handled the hush-money payments without Trump’s involvement. “Michael Cohen decided on his own – that’s what he told us – on his own, to see if he could take care of this,” Costello told reporters after testifying to the grand jury at Trump’s lawyers’ request. Cohen, who testified twice before the grand jury, has said publicly Trump directed him to make the payments on Trump’s behalf.
An indictment could hurt Trump’s comeback attempt. Some 44% of Republicans say he should drop out of the presidential race if he is indicted, according to a seven-day Reuters/Ipsos poll that concluded on Monday. The investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is one of several legal challenges facing Trump. Trump’s fellow Republicans have widely criticised the probe as politically motivated.
Trump, meanwhile, has to contend with other legal challenges, raising the possibility he will have to shuttle between campaign stops and courtrooms before the November 2024 election. His lawyers on Monday asked a Georgia court to quash a special grand jury report detailing its investigation into his alleged efforts to overturn his 2020 statewide election defeat. Trump is also seeking to delay a civil fraud trial, scheduled for Oct. 2, brought by the New York attorney general that alleges a decade-long scheme to manipulate the value of his assets to win better terms from bankers and insurers. Trump faces two civil trials involving former magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, who claims that Trump defamed her by denying he raped her. A federal judge on Monday denied a request from both sides to combine the two cases into one.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s rival for the Republican presidential nomination, said on Monday Bragg was imposing a “political agenda” that compromised the rule of law, but he also took a veiled swipe at Trump. “I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair,” he told reporters. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives launched an investigation of Bragg’s office with a letter seeking communications, documents, and testimony related to the probe. Trump and other Republicans have also said the Manhattan District Attorney’s office should focus more on tackling crime.
New York Mayor Eric Adams told reporters police were monitoring social media and keeping an eye out for “inappropriate actions” in the city. The New York Police Department said there were no known credible threats.