WASHINGTON – The prosecutor overseeing the criminal probe into former President Donald Trump and his business convened a grand jury that could decide on any indictments, according to a newspaper report Tuesday.
The Washington Post reported that Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, convened the grand jury that will sit three days a week for six months. According to the Post, the grand jury will hear several matters beyond Trump's.
The investigation examines potential tax and bank-related fraud. Prosecutors are interested in whether Trump overvalued his properties and obscured debts to obtain valuable loans and other financial negotiations.
The convening of the grand jury indicates that Vance believes he has a case against Trump or someone else in his orbit.
Trump, who lacks the immunity from prosecution he had as president and the power to pardon his allies, called the investigation politically motivated in a statement Tuesday.
“This is purely political, and an affront to the almost 75 million voters who supported me in the Presidential Election, and it’s being driven by highly partisan Democrat prosecutors,” Trump said.
Vance's office declined to comment. The New York State Attorney General's Office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw organized crime investigations, said the involvement of a grand jury suggests an indictment is "highly likely."
"My guess ... is that Vance feels he has the evidence to get an indictment and is in a hurry to get it presented, so he can get the indictment voted and filed," Cotter said. "That will take some time, and there is other work needed to finalize an indictment, but I imagine that an indictment is essentially imminent."
Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer, underscored that there remain a number of unknowns about any potential case.
"We do not know how expansive the New York investigation is right now, nor do we know if Vance is simply using the grand jury process as a vehicle to get access to more information or, alternatively, planning to bring actual charges before it for consideration," he said.
"Plus, if Vance does intend to seek an indictment against Trump or the kids, it is likely that will be the last step taken, and only after he has first rolled up cooperating witnesses like Weisselberg," Moss said.
Allen Weisselberg is chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. Last month, The Washington Post reported that investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office took possession of financial records from the home of Weisselberg's former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., said a criminal indictment of Trump "would be welcome in Congress."
"Holding Mr. Trump accountable would be the ultimate barometer of the health of our democracy, while failure to do so will only push us closer to fascism and authoritarianism,” said Pascrell, who called himself the first member of Congress to demand publicly that Trump be prosecuted for his crimes.
Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced she joined forces with Vance in the criminal investigation of the Trump Organization, upping the pressure on Trump and his associates from what was a civil matter.
David Weinstein, a former Miami federal prosecutor, said the reported involvement of a Manhattan grand jury is no more ominous than that announcement from James.
"This just means that Vance is moving forward," Weinstein said. "He is presenting the evidence that he has collected to the grand jury, he will be calling witnesses to testify and that at some point before his term, as well as the term of the special grand jury, expires, he will be presenting a proposed indictment for their consideration."
Vance announced that he is not seeking reelection this year as Manhattan's chief prosecutor.
Contributing: Matthew Brown, Kevin Johnson, David Jackson and Joshua Meyer
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NYC prosecutor in Trump criminal case convenes grand jury, report says