Manhattan DA: Focus is on 'evidence and the law' in Trump-Stormy Daniels case

8 months ago 3

CNN  — 

New York City prosecutors probing former President Donald Trump’s alleged role in a hush money scheme and cover-up are focused “on the evidence and the law,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said this weekend.

Speaking on MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” Bragg did not go into detail about what he called the “active investigation” but instead praised the “professionalism” of his prosecuting team.

“We follow the facts. It doesn’t matter what party you are, it doesn’t matter your background. What did you do? And what does the law say?” Bragg said Saturday, adding that he’s “constrained from saying anything more than that because I don’t want to prejudice any investigation.”

The investigation relates to a $130,000 payment made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels in late October 2016, days before the presidential election, to silence her from going public about an alleged affair with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels.

Manhattan prosecutors have invited the former president to appear before the grand jury investigating his alleged role in the payment and the cover-up, a person familiar with the matter previously said, indicating a decision on charging Trump may come soon.

Trump was to meet with his legal team at Mar-a-Lago this weekend to consider his options and possibly decide whether to appear before the grand jury, a person familiar with the matter told CNN.

Hush money payments aren’t illegal. Prosecutors are weighing whether to charge Trump with falsifying the business records of the Trump Organization for how they reflected the reimbursement of the payment to Michael Cohen, Trump’s then-fixer who said he advanced the money to Daniels. Falsifying business records is a misdemeanor in New York.

Prosecutors are also weighing whether to charge Trump with falsifying business records in the first degree for allegedly falsifying a record with the intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal another crime, which in this case could be a violation of campaign finance laws. That is a Class E felony, with a sentence minimum of one year and as much as four years.

The Trump Organization noted the reimbursements as a legal expense in its internal books. Trump has denied knowledge of the payment.

When asked what factors into a prosecutor’s decision to move forward in any case, Bragg said, “We’re looking at the facts and the law and the facts as they develop. We review documents, we talk to witnesses and so, yes, we live in this world, we may hear what this pundit says and we may hear all the commentary, but our focus is on the evidence and the law.”

Trump would be the first former president ever indicted and the first major presidential candidate under indictment. He has said he “wouldn’t even think about leaving” the race if charged.

Trump’s spokesperson last week said in a statement to CNN, “The Manhattan District Attorney’s threat to indict President Trump is 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.”

In a lengthy post on his Truth Social account Thursday, Trump said in part, “I did absolutely nothing wrong, I never had an affair with Stormy Daniels.”

Bragg, however, said he doesn’t follow what is posted on social media and instead is “focusing on the work.”

He said the $1.6 million fine the Trump Organization was ordered to pay in January for running a decade-long tax fraud scheme was an example of the professionalism of his office. Trump and his family were not charged in the case.

“I thought that was consequential,” Bragg said. “The first time we’ve had that kind of a criminal conviction involving the Trump Organization. And it speaks to the rigor and the professionalism of the career prosecutors in my office.”

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