In April, Donald Trump received a rare bit of good legal news when a six-month grand jury called by the Manhattan district attorney to determine if there was alleged business fraud at the Trump Organization expired without any charges filed.
At the time, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg vowed that the criminal probe wasn’t over, saying that prosecutors were “investigating thoroughly and following the facts without fear or favor.” Seven months later, it appears as if his office is back on the trail. According to the New York Times, prosecutors are now returning to one of the original legal crises of the Trump administration: the hush payments from ex-Trump fixer Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about their alleged affair.
After Feds raided Cohen’s office in 2018, the Manhattan district attorney’s office began investigating the payments before moving on to focus on alleged business misconduct — the practices thoroughly described in New York attorney general Letitia James’s civil suit accusing the Trump Organization of fraud. Prosecutors with the Manhattan DA’s office have previously looked at the $130,000 payment to Daniels, which would violate laws against falsifying business records, to the point that they’ve reportedly been calling it the “zombie theory.” But now they hope to try a different strategy with the aid of the Trump Organization’s former CFO Allen Weisselberg.
Of course, that would require Weisselberg to cooperate. Charged last year by the district attorney’s office for his role in the Trump Organization’s scheme to artificially deflate property values to avoid paying higher taxes, he has refused to flip. In August, he pleaded guilty to 15 felony charges, including grand larceny, tax fraud, and falsifying business records. The DA’s office is now reportedly hoping to levy a new round of insurance-fraud charges on Weisselberg in an attempt to make him cooperate in the hush-money inquiry.
Considering that Weisselberg has dealt coolly with the pressure and accepted a five-month prison sentence rather than provide information on his former boss, the new plan to make him flip may be a long shot. (Perhaps the DA’s office thinks a few months behind bars will influence his decision.) But even if the reported ploy to make Weisselberg cooperate doesn’t pan out, Trump is still facing several more investigations that could bog down his 2024 run — the civil lawsuit filed by the New York attorney general, the inquiry from the Atlanta-area district attorney into his efforts to overturn the 2020 results, the investigation into classified documents held at Mar-a-Lago, and the investigation into Trump’s effort to stop the election certification on January 6.
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