The decision whether to indict former President Donald Trump over hush-money payments made on his behalf during his 2016 presidential campaign lies in the hands of a Manhattan grand jury that has been hearing evidence in secret for weeks.
An indictment of Trump, who is seeking the White House again in 2024, would be an unprecedented moment in American history, the first criminal case against a former US president.
Law enforcement officials are bracing for protests and the possibility of violence after Trump called on his supporters to protest ahead of a possible indictment.
An indictment could also test a Republican Party already divided over whether to support Trump next year, in part due to his efforts to undermine his 2020 election loss.
Trump denies any wrongdoing and has slammed the Manhattan district attorney's office probe as politically motivated.
Here's a look at the hush-money probe, grand jury process and possible ramifications for his presidential campaign:
What is the probe about?
The grand jury has been probing Trump’s involvement in a $130,000 payment made in 2016 to the porn actor Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about a sexual encounter she said she had with him years earlier. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen paid Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, through a shell company before being reimbursed by Trump, whose company, the Trump Organization, logged the reimbursements as legal expenses.
Earlier in 2016, Cohen also arranged for former Playboy model Karen McDougal to be paid $150,000 by the publisher of the supermarket tabloid The National Enquirer, which then squelched her story in a journalistically dubious practice known as “catch-and-kill.”
Trump denies having sex with either woman.
Trump’s company “grossed up” Cohen’s reimbursement for the Daniels payment to defray tax payments, according to federal prosecutors who filed criminal charges against the lawyer in connection with the payments in 2018. In all, Cohen got $360,000 plus a $60,000 bonus, for a total of $420,000.
Cohen pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance law in connection with the payments. Federal prosecutors say the payments amounted to illegal, unreported assistance to Trump’s campaign. But they declined to file charges against Trump himself.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s team appears to be looking at whether Trump or anyone committed crimes in New York state in arranging the payments, or in the way they accounted for them internally at the Trump Organization.
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