Former Trump lawyer testifies before grand jury as indictment of ex-US president appears near

Mr Michael Cohen is a crucial witness in the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal investigation into former US president Donald Trump. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK – Mr Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for Mr Donald Trump, testified in front of a grand jury on Monday as prosecutors near a likely indictment of the former US president.

Mr Cohen is a crucial witness in the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal investigation into Mr Trump.

Mr Cohen, who is also Mr Trump’s former fixer, testified for much of the afternoon and was expected to return on Wednesday to continue his testimony.

When he walked into the building where the grand jury meets, Mr Cohen remarked to reporters that he felt “fine” but “a little twisted, to be honest, inside”, and that his goal was “to tell the truth”.

On his way out, Mr Cohen’s lawyer, Mr Lanny Davis, called it a “long and productive afternoon” and said that Mr Cohen “answered all questions”.

Mr Cohen’s appearance is one of several recent signals that District Attorney Alvin Bragg is poised to seek an indictment of the former president for his role in paying hush money to a porn star in the days before the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Bragg’s prosecutors have questioned at least seven other people before the grand jury this year, and Mr Cohen is likely one of the final witnesses, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

It would be rare for a prosecutor in a high-profile white-collar case to question nearly every relevant witness without intending to seek an indictment.

Another signal that an indictment is likely coming was when Mr Bragg’s office informed Mr Trump’s lawyers that the former president could appear before the grand jury this week, should he want to do so.

Such offers almost always indicate an indictment is close, because in New York, potential defendants have the right to answer questions in the grand jury shortly before they are indicted.

Mr Trump declined the offer, people with knowledge of his decision said.

And members of his legal team recently met privately with prosecutors to make their case against an indictment, one of his lawyers, Mr Joseph Tacopina, said on Good Morning America on Monday.

One of the lawyers at the meeting was Ms Susan Necheles, who Mr Tacopina said was “leading the charge” for Mr Trump.

The former president has blasted Mr Bragg’s investigation, saying that the Democratic district attorney is conducting a politically motivated “witch hunt”. NYTIMES

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