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The Manhattan grand jury investigating Trump plans to take a break in April

The Manhattan grand jury hearing evidence about former President Donald Trump's role in a hush money scheme is taking a break until the end of April.
Evan Vucci
/
AP
The Manhattan grand jury hearing evidence about former President Donald Trump's role in a hush money scheme is taking a break until the end of April.

Updated March 30, 2023 at 7:34 AM ET

The Manhattan grand jury considering evidence about former President Donald Trump's role in a hush money scheme may not take any action until the latter half of April.

That's due to a pre-planned break beginning next week that coincides with Easter, Passover, and Ramadan, two people familiar with the investigation tell NPR.

Prosecutors earlier this month invited the former president to testify to the grand jury, an offer his lawyers declined. But that prompted observers, including Trump himself, to say that an indictment was imminent. Since Trump posted a statement about what he called, without evidence, an imminent "arrest," cameras have been stationed outside the courts building in Lower Manhattan. At least two witnesses have testified.

Grand Jury proceedings are secret. Prosecutors are prohibited from speaking about them, and jurors can ask for more evidence, witnesses, or time for deliberations, so uncertainty typically surrounds the end of grand jury investigations.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing

Witnesses, however, are allowed to discuss their testimony, and a result, an outline of Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg's inquiry has emerged: He is investigating whether Donald Trump committed a crime in New York when he reimbursed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, for making a hush money payment to an adult film actor, Stormy Daniels, in the waning days of Trump's 2016 campaign.

Cohen pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison in federal court in 2018, when he said he made the payments "at the direction" of Donald Trump. Records show Trump personally reimbursed Cohen for the payment, which his company, falsely, called a "retainer" for legal fees. In New York, that could be a Class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.

Trump has denied wrongdoing.

The District Attorney's office isn't commenting, but one Trump attorney, Alina Habba, who is working on a separate civil case brought by the New York attorney general, issued a statement saying, "It is not normal to take a three-week break when you are up against a statute of limitations."

Prosecutors have said the statute of limitations does not apply in this case because Trump has resided out of state since 2017, and because of COVID-19.

The pre-planned break means that prosecutors in other jurisdictions, including Special Counsel Jack Smith in Washington, D.C., and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in Georgia, could be the first prosecutors in the country to criminally charge a former president.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andrea Bernstein