(MENAFN) A Manhattan grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump's role in a "hush money" payment reconvened on Monday and heard testimony from a central witness, according to sources familiar with the matter. David Pecker, the former CEO of American Media, Inc. (AMI) and publisher of The National Enquirer, was spotted entering the building where the grand jury was meeting and testified before the panel Monday afternoon. Pecker played a key role in connecting a lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claimed she had an affair with Trump, with Michael Cohen, Trump's then-attorney. Cohen ultimately secured a non-disclosure agreement from Daniels in exchange for USD130,000.
The grand jury last convened to discuss the Trump investigation on March 20, when it heard from attorney Robert Costello at the request of Trump's legal team. However, by the end of the day on Monday, the Manhattan district attorney had not communicated with Trump's legal team, according to Joe Tacopina, one of the former president's attorneys. Another Trump lawyer, Susan Necheles, also said there was no communication from the D.A. Monday evening.
Trump, who is again running for president, assailed the investigation during a campaign rally in Texas on Saturday, claiming he's under investigation "for something that is not a crime, not a misdemeanor, not an affair." He has denied the affair and all allegations of wrongdoing in relation to the payment. Trump previously incorrectly predicted his arrest would be on March 22, calling for protests that day. Tuesday came and went without an arrest, and with little unrest beyond a sparse group of supporters who rallied intermittently across the street from Manhattan Criminal Court.
A significant law enforcement presence has descended upon the Lower Manhattan neighborhood surrounding the court and district attorney's offices, with police barricading sidewalks and removing garbage cans around the buildings. Trump has repeatedly lashed out on his social media site, including warning that an indictment would lead to "potential death & destruction." He also posted an altered image on Truth Social depicting himself holding a baseball bat next to a photo of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The post was later removed.
The investigation centers around a payment of USD130,000 made to adult film star Stormy Daniels just weeks before the 2016 election, allegedly to buy her silence about an affair she claims to have had with Trump. AMI, the parent company of The National Enquirer, bought the rights to the story of a woman who said she had an affair with Trump in August 2016, but the outlet never published her account. The company later admitted the "catch and kill" tactic was designed to suppress the story and help Trump's election prospects. Pecker was CEO of AMI until 2020.
The grand jury's investigation could have significant implications for Trump's political future, as well as his legal and financial liabilities. While the former president has denied any wrongdoing, the investigation is ongoing, and the grand jury's decision could ultimately lead to charges being filed against him. The case is being closely watched by legal experts and political observers alike.
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