According to a source familiar with the matter, Manhattan prosecutors pursuing a criminal case against former President Donald Trump, his company, and its executives have told at least one witness to prepare for grand jury testimony, indicating that the lengthy investigation is nearing its conclusion.
The development suggests that the Manhattan district attorney’s office is on the verge of transitioning from gathering evidence to presenting a complex case to a grand jury, which could lead to criminal charges being considered.
The district attorney’s office, led by Cyrus Vance Jr., has been looking into Trump, his real estate company, and its executives on a number of fronts, including looking into Trump’s tax returns, questioning perks given to employees, and looking into how the company accounted for reimbursements given to Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen.
Prosecutors are also looking into the finances of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, as well as the benefits he and his son Barry, a longtime employee of the Trump Organization, received from the company, according to CNN.
The news of a witness being contacted was first reported by ABC. The grand jury Vance’s office has convened is a special grand jury, according to the Washington Post. Grand juries of this type are typically used to hear complex, long-running fraud and corruption cases. A special grand jury meets for longer than a regular grand jury, usually three to six months rather than just one, and the jurors can vote to extend the term even further if necessary.
Following the Washington Post report, Vance’s office declined to comment on Tuesday. The office’s representative could not be reached on Wednesday. Trump’s lawyers and the Trump Organization have declined to comment.
In Manhattan, there are currently five grand juries. It’s unclear how many special grand juries have been formed, but more than one can be formed at the same time.
According to former prosecutors in the office, the use of a special grand jury indicates that Vance may be seeking to charge Trump, company executives, or the company itself.
“It’s extremely rare for a special grand jury to be appointed in Manhattan supreme court and not consider charges at some point,” said Daniel Alonso, a former prosecutor who served as the Manhattan district attorney’s chief assistant district attorney under Vance.
Chief of the office’s investigative division, Adam S. Kaufmann, stated that “It appears that they’ve reached a point in their investigation where the district attorney believes there’s proof of a crime. You don’t appoint a special grand jury unless you’re confident in your case.”
Because, unlike a federal grand jury, prosecutors cannot present hearsay evidence to a state grand jury, this type of grand jury is frequently convened in complex cases like the Trump investigation.
This means that instead of asking an FBI agent or another official working on the case to summarize the evidence, prosecutors must call witnesses themselves to testify before the grand jury.
Calling all of the witnesses in a large case can take much longer than a regular grand jury can handle.
The longer time frame also allows for the compulsion of witness testimony, which Alonso said he would “absolutely expect” in a case like the Trump investigation because it forces witnesses to speak without being able to compare their version of events to anyone else’s.
“You want to lock in their testimony while they are unaware of the other evidence,” he explained.