Prosecutor in Trump criminal probe convenes grand jury: Washington Post

Manhattan's district attorney has been investigating Trump’s pre-presidency business dealings for more than two years. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Manhattan's district attorney has convened a grand jury that is expected to decide whether to indict Mr Donald Trump, which indicates he feels he has evidence of a crime by the former president or someone close to him or by his company, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday (May 25).

The development is the latest step towards the 74-year-old Trump, who left the White House in January, possibly becoming the first ever ex-US leader to face criminal charges.

Mr Trump fired off a statement in response to the reports, rejecting the investigation as "purely political" and "a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in American history".

"It's never stopped... No other President in history has had to put up with what I have had to," he wrote.

The panel was convened recently and will sit three days a week for six months, the Post said, citing two unnamed people familiar with the development.

"It is likely to hear several matters - not just the Trump case ­- during the duration of its term, which is longer than a traditional New York state grand-jury assignment, these people said."

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has been investigating Trump's pre-presidency business dealings for more than two years.

Vance's office has said in court filings it was investigating "possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct" at the Trump Organisation, including tax and insurance fraud and falsification of business records.

A spokesman for Vance, Danny Frost, declined to comment on the Post report.

The Post said the move indicates Vance's investigation has reached an advanced stage and that he believes he has "found evidence of a crime - if not by Trump then by someone potentially close to him or by his company."

The New York attorney-general's office said a week ago that it had opened a criminal investigation into Trump's company, increasing the legal risk for Trump and his family.

Attorney-General Letitia James has been investigating whether the Trump Organisation falsely reported property values to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits

Vance's probe initially focused on hush payments made to two women who allege they had affairs with Trump - but the investigation has since been expanded.

Vance, who leaves his post at the end of December, acquired eight years of Trump's tax returns in February after a years-long legal battle that went to the Supreme Court.

Investigators are notably looking into the remuneration of key executives at the Trump Organization, according to the Post.

According to several media, Vance's team has been looking closely at the Trump Organization's long-serving chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, one of the family's most loyal servants.

Investigators believe Weisselberg knows all of the Trump family secrets and have been putting pressure on him for months to cooperate with their investigation.

Observers are closely watching whether Weisselberg will turn against his former boss.

Trump's ex-personal lawyer Michael Cohen - jailed for tax evasion and violating campaign finance laws - was one of his closest henchmen before turning against his former boss and deciding to cooperate with prosecutors.

Trump, who left office in January, has denied any wrongdoing.

Last week he attacked James, saying "we will overcome" any attempt at prosecution.

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