‘That’s got to make Donald Trump nervous’: Legal experts on grand jury considering Trump charges

‘That’s got to make Donald Trump nervous’: Legal experts on grand jury considering Trump charges
‘They must have come across some evidence as to somebody’s state of mind’

Legal experts have weighed in on the news that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has convened a grand jury in the investigation into Donald Trump’s business dealings.

The grand jury is expected to decide whether to indict former President Donald Trump, should criminal charges be brought against him.

The former president, in a statement released on Tuesday, said: “This is a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in American history. It began the day I came down the escalator in Trump Tower, and it’s never stopped.”

“No other President in history has had to put up with what I have had to.”

Mr Trump said he would fight “like I have been for the last five years.”

Legal experts said the decision to convene a grand jury suggested the investigation is in an advanced stage and that the district attorney likely believes there are criminal charges to be filed.

Preet Bharara

The former US attorney told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that the grand jury move indicated a discovery of intentional criminality during the course of the investigation.

“I think it’s significant … they must have come across some evidence as to somebody’s state of mind. That the misconduct they were investigating does not seem to be the product of negligence or recklessness or mistake but intentional criminality,” he said.

“It seems to me that this is the endgame, and whether there is a charge against Donald Trump or not, that the decision about that, I suspect, is one that Cy Vance wants to make on his own and not saddle his successor with. That’s only a few months to go and so if there’s going to be a charge I expect it to be under Cy Vance’s watch.”

Renato Mariotti

The former federal prosecutor said  in a series of tweets that people should not jump to conclusions about who will be charged in the investigation.

“A grand jury is just a group of ordinary people chosen at random who hear evidence presented to them by prosecutors. Prosecutors have the authority to issue subpoenas for documents and testimony as part of their grand jury investigation,” he wrote on Twitter.

“The mere fact that a special grand jury was empaneled does not mean that any particular person will be charged. It does not necessarily mean that Trump himself will be charged. But it is fair to say that Vance’s investigation is far along and that charges are on the horizon.

“Reports suggest that the investigation is expansive and includes potential tax charges and false statements in financial statements,” he continued.

“This is consistent with reports that Vance is investigating others within the Trump Organization, such as long-time CFO Allen Weisselberg.

“It‘s easier to prove knowledge for people involved in preparing or authorising the documents, like Weisselberg. So don’t be surprised if people like Weisselberg are their initial target, to induce him or others to flip.

“Someone like Trump or his children will only have liability if they knew of the false statements and participated in the scheme in some way or moved it forward somehow.“

“It looks like the DA is moving quickly, and today’s announcement and the AG’s recent decision to publicly join the criminal investigation suggests the investigation is in an advanced stage. But charges could be months away, and we don’t know who will be named first.”

Daniel Alonso

The former chief assistant to the Manhattan DA’s office told MSNBC on Tuesday that the appointment of a grand jury suggested it was “highly likely” Cy Vance thinks a crime occurred at the Trump Organization.

“Obviously we don’t know, and I don’t have any inside information, but yes – I think it is highly likely that the DA’s office thinks that there are crimes to be charged here,” he said.

He had earlier explained to the show’s host Ari Melber that this grand jury would be slightly different from others.

“The usual grand juries sit for four weeks, and they hear any case that comes through the door. But this is now a more targeted thing. And that typically means that the DA has a complicated case he wants to present for a potential indictment at some point during the term of the additional grand jury,” he said.

Neal Katyal

The law professor and former US Acting Solicitor General said news of the Grand Jury would be making the former president very nervous.

“I think the public has had a lot of fatigue about this, and they see Trump get away with thing after thing but those of us trained in the law have known that this day was going to come,” Mr Katyal told MSNBC.

“The convening of a grand jury is very significant because it is a really unique investigative tool. It’s not something you start unless you have serious evidence as a prosecutor and … this panel’s going to work three days a week and that’s got to make Donald Trump nervous.”

Andrew Weissmann

Previously one of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s top deputies, Mr Weissmann stressed that the time the jury would be sitting for – three days a week – was significant.

“I think the big news is that they now have convened a grand jury, and that is certainly a prerequisite to bringing a charge. Whether they get there or not is something we don’t know. The fact they’re sitting three days a week is unusual and it suggests the seriousness of purpose since that’s not typical,” he told MSNBC.

“And I would think that this is going to mean that if you are Allen Weisselberg, you know, you are feeling the pressure today, that this is really ratcheting up what’s going on.”