No Vote for Trump Grand Jury, Hears From Witness Again; NYPD Drops All Cops in Uniform Order

Late last week, the NYPD rescinded its directive that every officer report for duty in uniform - in case of a potential Donald Trump indictment or related protests, two senior police officials say

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What to Know

  • All eyes have been on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg regarding a potential Donald Trump indictment; the grand jury that's been hearing the hush money case hasn't met on that matter in a week, sources have said
  • Last Monday, the 23-member panel heard testimony from Trump ally Robert Costello Monday, where he sought to discredit Michael Cohen; a planned meeting was called off Wednesday and the grand jury discussed other matters when it reconvened Thursday, sources said
  • If the Manhattan grand jury were to indict Trump, it would mark the first criminal charges against a former or sitting U.S. president. Any charges, or conviction, though, wouldn't ban him from running

The Manhattan grand jury that has been weighing potential charges against former President Donald Trump heard from a witness in the hush money case Monday, a source with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed to NBC News, though the schedule could change.

David Pecker was the witness at Monday's grand jury hearing, NBC News confirms. He is the former CEO of American Media and publisher of National Enquirer. This was his second appearance before the grand jury. 

Why is Pecker’s testimony potentially important? Pecker could corroborate Michael Cohen's claim that the hush money payments were not just personal, but political, and that they were intended to catch and kill a story that could have impacted Trump's election.

In 2018, American Media Inc. admitted to paying $150,000 in hush money to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels. A statement of admitted facts said that AMI's "principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman's story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.

Federal prosecutors previously granted Pecker immunity in their investigation into Cohen.

The grand jury hadn't taken up the hush money matter in a week, sources have said. Heightened concerns over potentially violent protests in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol last year also appear to have eased a bit. Two senior police officials said Monday that an NYPD order directing all officers report for duty in uniform in case of a possible indictment or related protest chaos was rescinded.

The department continues to monitor events in Lower Manhattan. Protest activity has been largely muted in the absence of any movement on the case by the grand jury and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Bragg arrived at his office Monday morning and did not comment on the ongoing investigation. The grand jury has been secretly hearing evidence for months in the case. Three sources familiar with the matter said that the grand jury for the Trump investigation did not vote on Monday.

News 4 reported security plans were in development in the event an indictment could come as early as last week, yet a day after that report, Trump told the globe he expected to be arrested. No arrest came.

The 23 Manhattanites on the grand jury were told to stay home last Wednesday, despite being scheduled to convene, and heard evidence on other cases Thursday, three sources familiar with the matter said. They didn't discuss Trump, sources say, though it's unclear why. Early in the week, they heard testimony from Trump ally Robert Costello, who sought to discredit key prosecution witness Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney and fixer, as "totally unreliable."

It's unclear if the testimony from Costello, who had waived immunity and thus could be prosecuted if he were to perjure himself, factored into Bragg's grand jury plans over these last few days.

Trump has vociferously equated the relative silence out of the Manhattan grand jury to "NO CASE." He taunted Bragg on his social media platform for much of last week and continued to do so on Truth Social early Monday.

Bragg's office, which received threatening letters in the mail potentially related to the case, declined comment.

It's unclear if any possible organized actions could intensify should the grand jury opt to indict Trump, which would be the first indictment of a sitting or former U.S. president in history. But with the pall of the Jan. 6, 2022 insurrection still looming large, the NYPD, and its law enforcement partners at all levels of government, prepared accordingly.

The white powder security scare was quickly determined to be non-hazardous, but the letter appears to have been sent the same day that former President Trump said he believed he would be arrested. It was many threats sent to the DA's office in recent weeks. Jonathan Dienst reports.

What Happened? And What Happens Now?

Although the grand jury paused last week in its review of the case, former prosecutor Daniel Horwitz said he doesn't believe the delay was due to second thoughts about the credibility of Cohen, who has admitted to and served time in prison for lying about the payoff to the porn star.

"There’s a lot of criticism, questions about Michael Cohen. You know, lots of white collar cases — almost every white collar case is made with insiders," Horwitz said.

Cohen says he is telling the truth about Trump and falsified documents to try to cover up the hush-money payments — which are not illegal. However, falsifying business records to protect a presidential campaign might be.

"After reviewing everything, if the DA still believes the evidence warrants the charge, then I would expect Bragg to file those charges," said trial attorney Robert Gottlieb.

Meanwhile, the world continues to wait.

Sources say an indictment of former President Donald Trump could happen as early as Wednesday — if it happens at all. So far, there has been no official announcement of any time-frame for the grand jury's work in the hush money investigation. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies at all levels are shoring up security for the possibility of an indictment. NBC New York's Jonathan Dienst and Sarah Wallace report.

Columbia law professor John Coffee suggested the law itself could be a problem for prosecutors because even if the district attorney can prove Trump falsely accounted for hush money to Daniels, that would only amount to a misdemeanor. Winning a low-level felony conviction could require connecting that to a federal crime. 

"The New York statute says it’s a misdemeanor if you just falsify the records. It’s a felony if you falsify the record in order to conceal a crime. But if the crime is a federal crime that is a different ball of wax," said Coffee. "It is not at all clear that NY state has jurisdiction or authority to find a violation of a federal crime."

Federal prosecutors had said the payments amounted to illegal, unreported assistance to Trump’s campaign. But they declined to file charges against Trump himself. The ex-president has denied all allegations against him.

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