Trump inquiry further delayed

Probe stays paused as grand jury meets on other matters

Police officers assigned to the Counterterrorism Bureau stand post Thursday outside Trump Tower in New York.
(AP/Bryan Woolston)
Police officers assigned to the Counterterrorism Bureau stand post Thursday outside Trump Tower in New York. (AP/Bryan Woolston)

NEW YORK -- The Manhattan grand jury investigating Donald Trump over hush money payments met on other matters Thursday, further delaying a vote on whether or not to indict the former president, according to a person familiar with the matter.

There was no immediate explanation from prosecutors about why the grand jury was not taking up the Trump matter during its scheduled Thursday session after not meeting at all on Wednesday. There also was no word on when or if prosecutors might resume presenting evidence or ask for a decision on bringing historic criminal charges.

The grand jury will not consider the matter again until at least Monday, two people familiar with the situation said.

The panel is an investigative grand jury, meaning it hears other cases beyond the one focused on hush money paid on Trump's behalf during the 2016 presidential campaign to a porn actor who says she had a sexual encounter with him years earlier.

Even so, the grand jury's pause on Trump -- confirmed by a person who was not authorized to discuss the proceedings and who spoke on condition of anonymity -- has given an opening to the former president and supporters to claim the investigation is somehow stalled. Trump, who has denied any sexual encounter with Stormy Daniels, raised the specter on his social media site of "years of hatred, chaos and turmoil" if charges are brought.

In keeping with the secret nature of the grand jury process, prosecutors also on Thursday rebuffed a request from House Republicans for records and testimony on the investigation, a request that the general counsel to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg called an "unlawful incursion into New York's sovereignty."

The prosecutors said Trump had created "a false expectation" about being arrested, and they offered no update on the timing for any possible action.

Bragg, a Democrat, has declined to give details of the investigation, and his office declined to comment Thursday. But he is believed to be considering charges related to the payments that would include falsifying business records, possibly in commission of another, campaign-related crime.

It is up to Bragg to decide whether to ask the grand jury to vote on charging Trump, who has denied wrongdoing and dismissed the probe as politically motivated.

Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public and the media, with prosecutors prevented by law from sharing any details of what takes place. But these proceedings have captivated public attention, each development magnified because the presumed target is a former president and because Trump himself said last weekend he expected to be arrested on Tuesday.

The limited snapshots of the investigation have largely come from witnesses and their attorneys, who don't share the same secrecy obligation. Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and fixer and a key government witness in this case, has spoken publicly about his appearances, as has another recent witness, Robert Costello, an attorney who presented testimony aimed at undermining Cohen's credibility.

The district attorney's office, which is leading the investigation, has offered no public indication of timing.

On Wednesday, Trump's attorneys asked Bragg's office to show the grand jury a 2018 letter from a lawyer for Cohen to the Federal Election Commission. The letter claimed Trump campaign funds were not used to cover the Daniels payment.

Security officials briefed on the planning said Monday, the day Costello testified, that the grand jury was expected to meet again on Trump on Wednesday. But that did not happen.

In a letter sent Thursday to Republican lawmakers who sought documents and testimony about the investigation, the office's general counsel, Leslie Dudek, wrote that Trump had "created a false expectation" on the timing of an arrest, and Dudek reiterated prosecutors' obligation to preserve the secrecy of the investigation.

"These confidentiality provisions exist to protect the interests of the various participants in the criminal process -- the defendant, the witnesses and members of the grand jury -- as well as the integrity of the grand jury proceeding itself," the letter said.

Information for this article was contributed by Michael R. Sisak and Eric Tucker of The Associated Press and by Shayna Jacobs and Amy B Wang of The Washington Post.

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