NEW YORK (NewsNation) — The Manhattan grand jury will not vote Tuesday on whether to indict former President Donald Trump over hush-money payments made on his behalf during his 2016 presidential campaign, sources told NewsNation.
The jury expects to vote Wednesday, sources said.
Over the weekend, Trump claimed, without any evidence, on his Truth Social platform that he expected to be arrested on Tuesday, and exhorted followers to protest. His representatives later said he was citing media reports and leaks.
Previously, there was no indication that prediction would come true, though the grand jury appeared to take an important step forward by hearing Monday from a witness favorable to Trump, presumably so prosecutors could ensure the panel had a chance to consider any testimony that could be remotely seen as exculpatory.
The next steps in a grand jury process shrouded in secrecy remained unclear, and it was uncertain if additional witnesses might be summoned. The 23 members of the grand jury will vote on whether to indict Trump, but only 12 have to believe it’s likely a crime was committed to indict the former president.
For prosecutors, the bar for deciding to move forward may be set even higher, given the high-profile nature of the case.
“They have to have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, because the last thing you want to do, especially in a high profile case like this, is to indict and not have enough evidence going forward,” former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano told NewsNation’s Marni Hughes.
The testimony from Robert Costello, a lawyer with close ties to numerous key Trump aides, appeared to be a final opportunity for allies of the former president to steer the grand jury away from an indictment. He was invited by prosecutors to appear after saying that he had information to undercut the credibility of Michael Cohen, a former lawyer and fixer for Trump who later turned against him and then became a key witness in the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation.
Costello had provided Cohen legal services several years ago after Cohen himself became entangled in the federal investigation into the hush money payments. In a news conference after his grand jury appearance, Costello told reporters that he had come forward because he did not believe Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal crimes and served time in prison, could be trusted.
The grand jury has been probing Trump’s involvement in a $130,000 payment made in 2016 to the porn actor Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about a sexual encounter she said she had with him years earlier. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen paid Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, through a shell company before being reimbursed by Trump, whose company, the Trump Organization, logged the reimbursements as legal expenses.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s team appears to be looking at whether Trump or anyone committed crimes in New York state in arranging the payments, or in the way they accounted for them internally at the Trump Organization.
Trump denies any wrongdoing and has slammed the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office probe as politically motivated.
Republicans have also blasted the indictment as “politically motivated” and an “abuse of power.” Democrats have also slightly pushed back on this issue.
“There is no possible way to have united the Republican Party and even united a lot of Democrats in the way that Alvin Bragg has, not necessarily in support of Donald Trump, but in anger over how the justice system is being used, in what certainly appears to be a very politically motivated prosecution,” said NewsNation’s Leland Vittert.
He continued, “It’s gonna be very difficult for Alvin Bragg to say something other than a politically motivated prosecution when he used to brag about going after Donald Trump so often. So how is this not going after Donald Trump, specifically.”
Mark Smith, a former Trump transition team member and a constitutional attorney, told NewsNation that it might be “difficult” for Trump to get a fair trial in Manhattan.
“I do think it might be very difficult for Donald Trump to get a fair hearing in the county of Manhattan given it’s so overwhelming blue and anti-Trump. I think it would be very difficult, I’m not saying it’s impossible,” Smith said.
An indictment of Trump, who is seeking the White House again in 2024, would be an unprecedented moment in American history, the first criminal case against a former U.S. president.
Law enforcement officials are bracing for protests and the possibility of violence after Trump called on his supporters to protest ahead of a possible indictment. Some small demonstrations have taken place in New York, but the New York Police Department said there were no credible threats to the city at this time.
This is a breaking news story; refresh for updates.