Trump Grand Jury to Weigh Indictment; Will Meet for 6 Months Former President Donald Trump. (Alex Brandon/AP)
By Charlie McCarthy | Wednesday, 26 May 2021 12:43 PM
New York City prosecutors have convened a special grand jury expected to decide whether to indict former President Donald Trump and his business on criminal charges of fraud. The result, however, will not come quickly.
A group of Manhattan residents convened recently will sit 3 days per week for 6 months, the Washington Post first reported, citing 2 sources. Grand jury proceedings are confidential.
The grand jury likely will hear several cases during its term, which is longer than a traditional New York state grand-jury assignment, Post sources said. Special grand juries generally are convened to participate in long-term, complicated matters rather than to hear evidence of crimes charged routinely.
It also was unclear whether the grand jury will be asked to consider returning any indictments. Rebecca Roiphe, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan and now a professor at New York Law School, said such investigations always are formally overseen by grand juries and, in the early stages, might be used for the grand jury’s power in subpoenaing documents without offering charges for consideration.
"The prosecutors are convinced they have a case. That’s at least how I read it," Roiphe added.
Convening the grand jury indicates Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. believes he has found evidence of a crime — by Trump, people potentially close to the former president, and/or by his company – after more than 2 years of investigating alleged financial fraud at the Trump Organization.
"Now he will present that info to the grand jury and try to persuade the members to indict, so that he can formally charge the defendants and move the case forward," University of Richmond Law School Professor Carl Tobias told the New York Daily News. "I think that it is a major development, and my sense is that it could well lead to criminal charges against Trump."
Trump called the grand jury a "continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in American history."
"It began the day I came down the escalator in Trump Tower, and it’s never stopped," Trump said in a statement posted on his website Tuesday night. "They wasted two years and $48 million in taxpayer dollars on Mueller and Russia Russia Russia, Impeachment Hoax #1, Impeachment Hoax #2, and it continues to this day, with illegally leaked confidential information.
"This is purely political, and an affront to the almost 75 million voters who supported me in the Presidential Election, and it’s being driven by highly partisan Democrat prosecutors."
The Post, citing people familiar with the probe and public disclosures made during related litigation, said Vance’s investigation is expansive.
Investigators were scrutinizing Trump’s business practices before becoming president, including whether the value of specific Trump Organization properties were manipulated in a way that defrauded banks and insurance companies. Also, if any tax benefits were obtained illegally through unscrupulous asset valuation.
Compensation provided to top Trump Organization executives also was being examined, Post sources said.
"Much will depend on the quantity and quality of the evidence that Vance presents and how persuasive the presentation is," Tobias said.
Although it was unclear when it first convened, the grand jury apparently was together in April.
Jennifer Weisselberg, the former daughter-in-law of Allen Weisselberg — who’s managed the Trump Organization’s finances since the 1970s — told the Daily News she had handed over years’ worth of documents to Vance’s investigators by order of a grand jury subpoena.
"Yesterday, I get a call saying that there was a subpoena issued by the grand jury for the boxes. They said, 'We want to pick up your stuff tonight, your evidence,'" Jennifer Weisselberg said April 8. "They came by this morning."
The Post said separate investigations into Trump’s business practices – 2 probes beginning with Michael Cohen, the former president’s longtime lawyer – have converged.
A criminal investigation by Vance began in 2018 after Cohen pleaded guilty to charges stemming from hush-money payoffs.
Separately, New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, began a civil investigation of the Trump Organization in 2019 that was prompted by Cohen's testimony to Congress. Cohen said Trump had misled lenders and tax authorities with manipulated valuations of his assets.
James' investigation is now criminal in nature, the Daily News reported.