The top New York prosecutor’s investigation into the financial dealings of Donald Trump and the Trump Organization have progressed to the point where the Washington Post reports the Manhattan district attorney has empaneled a grand jury to hear evidence and return possible charges in the case. The move indicates that the investigation has reached a critical juncture where there is likely sufficient evidence to consider charges in the case. The grand jury will hear other cases during its typical six-month term, where it will meet several times a week to hear testimony and evidence in often complex cases. The evidence is not always presented sequentially and cases can be heard in bits and pieces over the term, including new evidence uncovered using the grand jury’s subpoena power, such that there is a chance that Trump-related testimony has already begun.
The grand jury will ultimately decide whether there is sufficient evidence of criminal wrongdoing to indict the former president and potentially others in the Trump Organization. The fact that District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s team is bringing the Trump case before the grand jury indicates that after a two-year, wide-ranging investigation into Trump’s business dealings, Vance believes there is a criminal case to be made. That case may not implicate Trump himself, but the time period covered by the probe, much of which was well before Trump was president, is one where Trump would have been significantly involved in his company’s dealings.
The investigation began following the revelations about hush payments paid to porn star Stormy Daniels by then–Trump attack dog and personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Cohen has since turned on his former boss—and gone to jail himself—while also spurring concurrent investigations by the Manhattan district attorney and the New York state attorney general. One of the key issues is whether the Trump Organization manipulated the valuation of its real estate assets, devaluing them around tax time to get tax breaks while inflating their value to lenders to get better loan terms, a practice that would amount to fraud. There is also a host of other Trump tax-related issues of questionable legality, including a deduction from a land donation and write-offs for consulting fees, in addition to questions about employee compensation and hush money payments paid to women.
The grand jury’s proceedings are kept secret, although there are other signs that the case against the Trump Organization is advanced, including the New York attorney general’s office’s recent announcement that its investigation had morphed from a civil probe into a criminal one that would be conducted in coordination with the district attorney’s investigation. Still suspended from Twitter and Facebook, Trump posted on his personal blog declaring the investigation a “witch hunt.”