NEW YORK, March 9 (Reuters) – Manhattan prosecutors have signaled to former President Donald Trump that he could face criminal charges relating to his alleged role in hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, the New York Times reported on Thursday, citing four unnamed sources.
The former president was told he could appear before a Manhattan grand jury next week if he wished to testify, the newspaper said. It said such invitations almost always mean an indictment is close.
A lawyer for Mr. Trump confirmed to Reuters that Mr. Trump had been invited to testify.
“He has a chance to appear before the grand jury as all people subject to an investigation do,” Mr. Trump attorney Susan Necheles told Reuters. If Mr. Trump is charged, it would mark the first ever indictment of a former president and add to legal challenges faced by Mr. Trump as he seeks the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
While being given the opportunity to testify indicates that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg could charge the president, the prosecutor could still decline to indict Mr. Trump.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Bragg declined to comment.
Marc Scholl, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, told Reuters that Mr. Trump being given an opportunity to testify suggests that the grand jury had heard evidence implicating him in a crime. “The invitation should mean the prosecutor is preparing to seek criminal charges.”
“If he (Trump) does appear, he will have to waive immunity and answer the prosecutor’s questions,” he said.
Mr. Trump on Truth Social called it a political witch hunt. “I did absolutely nothing wrong, I never had an affair with Stormy Daniels, nor would I have wanted to have an affair with Stormy Daniels. This is a political Witch-Hunt, trying to take down the leading candidate, by far, in the Republican Party.”
Daniels has said she had a sexual liaison with the former president and received $130,000 before the 2016 presidential election in exchange for not discussing her encounter with Mr. Trump, who denies it happened and in 2018 told reporters he knew nothing about a payment to Daniels.
Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison in federal court in New York for orchestrating hush payments to Daniels and another woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said she had a months-long affair with Mr. Trump before he took office.
Mr. Trump is facing multiple legal challenges and investigations, including over his handling of classified documents and his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. — Reuters