The legal jeopardy facing Donald Trump appeared to escalate Thursday with the disclosure that New York prosecutors offered the former president a chance to testify before a Manhattan grand jury in the ongoing criminal investigation centering on a hush money payment to a former porn star.
Trump attorney Joseph Tacopina confirmed the prosecutor’s offer as a decision loomed whether to bring criminal charges against the former president.
“To me, it’s much ado about nothing,” Tacopina told the Associated Press, adding he didn’t think prosecutors had committed “one way or another” on a decision on whether to charge Trump.
A spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alan Bragg declined to comment Thursday. The invitation to testify was first reported by The New York Times.
Attorneys for the former president did not immediately respond to inquiries, but Trump fired back, calling the district attorney’s action “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,” the campaign said in a statement. “The fact that after their intensive investigation the DA is even considering a new political attack is a clear exoneration of President Trump in all areas,” the Trump campaign added.
Trump later issued a personal statement, claiming he did “absolutely nothing wrong” and that the attorney general’s action was an attempt to take down the “leading” Republican candidate in the 2024 election.
He did not indicate whether he would testify before the Manhattan grand jury.
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Late last year, Bragg’s office injected new life into the long-running investigation that appeared to be stalled after the resignations of two prosecutors leading the criminal investigation.
Authorities had been investigating the 2016 payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels, which former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has described as falsely disguised as a legal expense to aid the former president’s campaign.
Cohen has met multiple time with New York prosecutors involved in the investigation.
In December, Bragg appointed former Justice Department official Matthew Colangelo, a former acting associate attorney general, as a senior counsel to focus on — among other priorities — high-profile white-collar investigations.
At the time, Bragg did not specifically refer to the Trump investigation, but underscored Colangelo’s “sound judgment and integrity needed to pursue justice against powerful people and institutions when they abuse their power.”
Within days of the Colangelo appointment, Bragg notched an important victory in a separate case when a Manhattan jury convicted two Trump companies on all charges in a criminal tax fraud scheme.
While Trump was not charged in the case and did not appear in the courtroom during the trial, the former president’s namesake Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation were found guilty on charges that included conspiracy, a scheme to defraud, and criminal tax fraud with the companies facing maximum penalties of $1.6 million.
Bragg characterized the verdicts as “consequential,” and, invoking the slogan he has attached to the office, “underscores that here in Manhattan we have one standard of justice for all.”
In Georgia, authorities also are moving closer to a decision on whether to bring criminal charges against Trump and his allies in a wide-ranging investigation into interference in the 2020 presidential election.
Atlanta-area District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat, is considering a range of possible crimes, from solicitation of election fraud and false statements to conspiracy, oath of office violations, racketeering, and violence associated with election-related threats.
Trump also is the focus of a Justice Department special inquiry, examining the former president’s involvement in interfering with the transfer of power following President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory and the unauthorized retention of classified documents at his Florida estate.