Trump offered chance to testify to New York grand jury

New York prosecutors have offered Donald Trump an opportunity to testify to a grand jury, signaling an investigation into hush money the former president allegedly paid a porn star may soon end in an indictment, US media reported Thursday.

Trump was offered a chance to testify next week to a New York grand jury, whose investigation is said to involve a $130,000 payment made just before the 2016 presidential election to an adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels, The New York Times and Washington Post reported.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had an affair with Trump years before he became president.

The Times said that such offers to testify “almost always indicate an indictment is close.”

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Both papers quoted people with knowledge of the proceedings led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat who took office in January.

His predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr, also a Democrat, had launched an investigation into Trump’s finances in 2019, which resulted in a years-long legal battle over the billionaire’s tax documents.

If an indictment were to be filed, it would mark the first time a former US president has been charged with a crime.

The district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Trump, who has already declared another bid for the White House, is facing several criminal probes at the state and federal level over possible wrongdoing before, during and after his first term in office. He has not yet been charged in any of them.

Criminal probes

In Georgia, a prosecutor is investigating Trump and his allies’ efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the southern state.

The former president is also the subject of a federal probe into his handling of classified documents as well as his possible involvement in the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol.

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That investigation was handed to an independent special counsel shortly after Trump formally announced his new candidacy for the White House.

Trump lashed out Thursday evening on his Truth Social page, calling the New York investigation “a political Witch-Hunt, trying to take down the leading candidate, by far, in the Republican Party.”

“I never had an affair with Stormy Daniels, nor would I have wanted to have an affair with Stormy Daniels,” he said, without confirming that he had been offered the chance to testify.

The hush money payment, made two weeks ahead of the November 2016 election, was allegedly intended to stop Daniels from publicly disclosing her affair with Trump.

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‘Resolve this Extortion’

It was made by a close Trump aide, the lawyer Michael Cohen, who said he was later reimbursed.

The payment to Cohen, if not properly accounted, could result in a misdemeanor charge in New York, but that could be raised to a felony if the false accounting was to cover up a second crime, such as a campaign finance violation, the Times said.

Trump said on Truth Social that in the “Daniels matter,” he had “relied on counsel in order to resolve this Extortion… which took place a long time ago.” It was not immediately clear if he was admitting that the payment had been made.

© Agence France-Presse

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