Alvin Bragg, Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen: Meet the key players in Manhattan DA's Trump case

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An inflection point is getting closer in the Manhattan district attorney's investigation of a hush-money payment made by former President Donald Trump to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

Trump on Saturday predicted he would be arrested this week and called on his supporters to protest, even as his advisers made clear they had no specific knowledge of any possible indictment and legal experts doubted an arrest was likely.

As pressure mounts and a possible indictment looms, here's what we know about the probe's key players.

Former President Donald Trump watches the NCAA Wrestling Championship on March 18, 2023, in Tulsa, Okla. Trump’s calls for protests ahead of his anticipated indictment in New York have generated mostly muted reactions from supporters, with even some of his most ardent loyalists dismissing the idea as a waste of time or a law enforcement trap.
Former President Donald Trump watches the NCAA Wrestling Championship on March 18, 2023, in Tulsa, Okla. Trump’s calls for protests ahead of his anticipated indictment in New York have generated mostly muted reactions from supporters, with even some of his most ardent loyalists dismissing the idea as a waste of time or a law enforcement trap.

Will Donald Trump get arrested?

Trump could soon become the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges.

The former president is under investigation for a $130,000 payment he made just before the 2016 election to silence Daniels about an earlier affair. He has denied wrongdoing, calling the investigation a politically motivated "witch hunt" and urging his supporters to protest his treatment.

An indictment is not the same as an arrest; it's a formal charge of a crime, while an arrest is when a person is taken into custody. An arrest of Trump is not likely, multiple experts told USA TODAY.

Opinion: Donald Trump wants you to think he's constantly the victim. Maybe he's just a bad dude.

Hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels are central to two of the lawsuits seeking tax and financial documents from President Trump's accounting firm.
Hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels are central to two of the lawsuits seeking tax and financial documents from President Trump's accounting firm.

Who is Stormy Daniels?

Daniels, an adult film star whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is central to the case Manhattan prosecutors are building against the former president.

Daniels alleges that in 2006, she had consensual sex with Trump, months after Melania Trump gave birth to the couple's son, Barron. Trump has denied the affair.

In October 2016, Trump’s then-attorney and personal fixer Michael Cohen made a wire transfer of $130,000 to Daniels' attorney after she said she was willing to go on record about the alleged affair with Trump.

Michael Cohen testifies before grand jury
Michael Cohen testifies before grand jury

Who is Michael Cohen and what did he do?

Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and a convicted felon, is another key figure in the Manhattan case. He has testified at least 20 times on the former president’s alleged illegalities.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to concealing personal income from the Internal Revenue Service and "causing $280,000 in payments to be made to silence two women who otherwise planned to speak publicly about their alleged affairs with a presidential candidate, thereby intending to influence the 2016 presidential election," according to Justice Department documents.

Cohen was released early to home detention due to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, Cohen has become a sharp critic of Trump, claiming the former president threw him under the bus to save his own reputation. Cohen’s close proximity to Trump during the alleged hush-money payments could prove pivotal if an indictment does come.

Opinion: Will Trump get arrested? Between sketchy witnesses and the law, case comes up short.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is seen at a news conference where New York City Mayor Eric Adams signed two bills designating new boundaries of a Times Square sensitive location and prohibiting concealed carry permit holders from bringing their firearms into the Times Square sensitive location, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in New York.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is seen at a news conference where New York City Mayor Eric Adams signed two bills designating new boundaries of a Times Square sensitive location and prohibiting concealed carry permit holders from bringing their firearms into the Times Square sensitive location, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in New York.

Who is Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg?

If Trump is to be indicted, the person who would become the first prosecutor to ever charge a former president is Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Bragg is a former New York state and federal prosecutor who made history as the first Black person to be elected as Manhattan District Attorney in November 2021.

This isn’t Bragg’s first time dealing with Trump. His office made headlines last December for successfully convicting two of Trump's companies on charges  related to a criminal tax fraud scheme.

After the convictions, Bragg alluded to Trump’s status as a former president, saying the verdict “underscores that here in Manhattan we have one standard of justice for all.”

Former CFO Allen Weisselberg leaves the courtroom for a lunch recess during a trial at the New York Supreme Court on November 17, 2022 in New York City.
Former CFO Allen Weisselberg leaves the courtroom for a lunch recess during a trial at the New York Supreme Court on November 17, 2022 in New York City.

Who is Allen Weisselberg?

Allen Weisselberg was the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, having served in the role since 2000.

Cohen testified in Congress that Weisselberg in 2016 reimbursed him $130,000 in hush money to pay Daniels, the adult film star.

In a lawsuit filed against the company by New York Attorney General Letitia James, Weisselberg was accused of taking more than $1.7 million in back-channel payments from the company. He pleaded guilty to 15 criminal charges and was sentenced to five months in jail.

Attorney Robert Costello leaves in a car after testifying at the Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg's office in New York City on March 20, 2023. - Former US President Donald Trump said he expects to be "arrested" on March 21, over an alleged hush-money payment to a porn star in 2016.
Attorney Robert Costello leaves in a car after testifying at the Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg's office in New York City on March 20, 2023. - Former US President Donald Trump said he expects to be "arrested" on March 21, over an alleged hush-money payment to a porn star in 2016.

Who is Robert Costello?

Robert Costello is a Republican lawyer with ties to Trump’s legal team.

He was tapped by Trump's team to testify in the former president's defense before a New York grand jury.

On Monday, Costello railed against Cohen, calling him a liar whose cooperation with prosecutors was rooted in a pursuit of "revenge."

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Contributing: Bart Jansen, Kevin Johnson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alvin Bragg, Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen are key to Trump case