April 19. 2024. 8:13

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New York prepares for possible Trump indictment over hush money payment allegations

Around the court buildings in Lower Manhattan police crowd barriers stand ready, if not yet fully deployed.

Nearby satellite vans of the TV networks are parked nose to tail.

Broadcasters have set up their tents with lights and equipment where correspondents report on the comings and goings.

If things get really serious, high-profile news anchors from the networks may shortly be using the same facilities.

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There are barriers in place on some pavements. In other places they stand ready to be moved quickly into place by police if deemed necessary.

All this comes as a grand jury in New York is currently hearing evidence arising from an investigation into a $130,000 payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 US presidential election, allegedly as hush money to prevent her speaking publicly about an affair with the then Republican candidate Donald Trump.

It is not known when, or even if, the grand jury will vote on whether Mr Trump should face charges in this case.

However, if he is indicted and arraigned, this part of lower Manhattan is likely to be focus of the biggest news story in the world on that particular day.

Any such indictment would also be a political sensation in the United States.

The former president would likely be required to report to the district attorney’s office in Manhattan where he would be arrested, fingerprinted and be photographed before being brought before a judge. He would be asked to enter a plea before being released pending further court hearings.

But all of this is in the realm of speculation so far although it is believed that the grand jury process is heading towards a conclusion one way or the other.

It was Mr Trump himself who, falsely as it turned out, told his supporters that he was going to be arrested on Tuesday of last week. He urged his followers to protest at any indictment. This prompted observers of US politics to draw parallels with the events on January 6th 2021 when some of the crowd Mr Trump had summoned to Washington to demonstrate against the alleged stealing of the 2020 election attacked the US Capitol where politicians were certifying the election results.

The Irish Times did not see any protesters in the Lower Manhattan area on Tuesday afternoon.

A small group of Trump supporters did turn up one day last week where they were significantly outnumbered by the media.

However, that could change if Mr Trump is indicted.

[ Donald Trump describes 2024 election as ‘the final battle’ at first campaign rally ]

[ The more trifling the charge sheet, the better Trump’s purpose is served ]

No former US president has ever been charged with a criminal offence, let alone one who is in the middle of running again for the White House.

Mr Trump, at this point, is the front-runner to secure the nomination to be the candidate of the Republican Party for the presidency in just over 18 months time.

Mr Trump, for his part has rejected the allegations against him and has sought to portray the investigation by the district attorney in Manhattan, who is a Democrat, as interference in the 2024 election process.

He has also repeatedly denied having a relationship with Ms Daniels.

“I never had an affair with her. It’s all made up,” Mr Trump told Sean Hannity on Fox News in an interview that was broadcast on Monday night.

Ms Daniels alleges that she had sex with Mr Trump after she met him at a celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe, Nevada in 2006.

In the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, Ms Daniels was paid $130,000 in a deal with Mr Trump’s then lawyer and “fixer”, Michael Cohen in a move designed to buy her silence.

Mr Cohen was jailed in December 2018 after pleading guilty to campaign finance charges and lying to Congress. He has become a strong and vocal critic of the former president.

There is general suggestions in US media that the district attorney’s investigation centres around allegations that the business records of Mr Trump’s company were falsified to cover up the repayment to Mr Cohen of the money he paid over to Ms Daniels.

However, any such case would have serious complications.

Under New York law falsifying business records is a misdemeanour rather than a felony, unless it can be associated with a more serious crime, perhaps such as breaches of election law.

However, there has been no confirmation of the nature of the case the district attorney is bringing before the grand jury in New York.

As part of any prosecution Mr Cohen would likely be a key witness, although he would almost certainly be strongly attacked by the defence as an embittered former Trump employee with an axe to grind.

The Manhattan case is just one potential area of potential legal jeopardy for Mr Trump.

He is also being investigated by the US Department of Justice over the January 6th attacks and alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election as well as a separate inquiry in Georgia which centres on his call to authorities in the state urging them to find sufficient votes to overturn Mr Biden’s margin of victory.

On Tuesday the New York Times reported that a federal judge has ordered former vice-president Mike Pence to appear in front of a grand jury investigating Mr Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Separately on Tuesday US broadcaster NBC reported that the grand jury in Manhattan was not expected to be asked to vote on an indictment this week regarding Mr Trump and the payment to Ms Daniels.