Trump Grand Jury Reconvening Today: What It Means and What to Expect
A grand jury in Manhattan, investigating former President Donald Trump and his business empire, is scheduled to reconvene on Tuesday, September 28. This will be the first time the panel of citizens sworn to hear evidence and decide whether to bring criminal charges has met since May, when it heard testimony from at least two witnesses about the Trump Organization’s financial dealings.
The grand jury was empaneled by the Manhattan district attorney’s office in March, after the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s effort to block a subpoena seeking his tax returns and other financial documents from his accountants, Mazars USA. The DA’s office, led by Cyrus Vance Jr., has been investigating whether the Trump Organization committed financial crimes such as fraud, tax evasion, or insurance fraud by inflating the value of its assets for loans or deflating them for taxes.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and called the investigation a “witch hunt,” “fishing expedition,” and “greatest political crime in the history of our country.” He has also sued Vance and the New York State attorney general, Letitia James, in an attempt to block their probes, claiming they are politically motivated and unconstitutional. However, courts have rejected most of his arguments and allowed the investigations to proceed.
What does the reconvening of the grand jury mean for Trump and the investigation? Here are some possible scenarios and questions to consider:
1. The grand jury could hear new witnesses, evidence, or charges.
The grand jury operates in secret, without a judge or defense lawyer present, and can issue subpoenas to compel witnesses and documents to appear. It can also indict suspects for felony crimes or misdemeanors, depending on the level of criminality and evidence presented. The DA’s office has not disclosed the identity of the witnesses who testified in May or whether they provided incriminating information about Trump or his associates. However, some reports suggest that the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, may have been a target of the investigation or a potential cooperator, given his long tenure and close relationship with Trump. Weisselberg’s former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg, has also cooperated with the DA’s office and provided them with boxes of documents related to the Trump Organization’s finances that she said were given to her as part of her divorce. She has publicly claimed that the Trump Organization provided her and her ex-husband with free rent, tuition, and other perks as a way of avoiding taxes and concealing assets.
If the grand jury hears from new witnesses or obtains new evidence, it may indicate that the investigation is expanding or intensifying. It may also suggest that the DA’s office has found more grounds to pursue criminal charges against the Trump Organization or its employees. Some experts have speculated that the DA’s office may be seeking to flip Weisselberg or other insiders who have knowledge of the alleged financial crimes and can provide testimony or evidence to support them. If the grand jury does return charges against Trump or the organization, it may trigger a legal battle over the validity and scope of the charges, as well as the jurisdiction and immunity of a former president.
2. The grand jury could encounter legal challenges or delays.
While the grand jury has broad powers to investigate and indict, it is not immune to legal challenges or delays. Defense lawyers for the Trump Organization or its employees may seek to quash subpoenas or limit the scope of the investigation, arguing that it is meant to harass or punish their client rather than discover the truth. They may also contest the admissibility or credibility of any evidence presented, such as documents or witness statements, claiming that they were obtained illegally or coerced. Moreover, the grand jury may encounter logistical or procedural hurdles, such as scheduling conflicts, health concerns, or conflicts of interest among the jurors or witnesses. It may also face pressures or criticisms from outside actors, such as politicians, pundits, or protesters, who seek to influence or challenge its decisions.
If the grand jury does face legal challenges or delays, it may take longer than expected to reach a verdict or issue a report. It may also face more scrutiny or skepticism from the public and the media, who may perceive it as a biased or partisan tool rather than an impartial body. Nonetheless, the DA’s office has shown a willingness to persist in its investigation despite Trump’s attempts to derail it, and has already obtained some notable victories, such as obtaining Weisselberg’s personal tax returns and conducting a raid on his home and office.
3. The grand jury may not lead to charges or public disclosure.
While the grand jury is designed to investigate and indict potential criminals, it is not guaranteed to produce either outcome. It can also choose to issue reports or recommendations that do not involve criminal charges, such as suggesting changes in laws or policies. Moreover, the grand jury can keep its proceedings and findings secret, unless and until criminal charges are filed or a judge orders them to be released. This secrecy can protect witnesses and evidence from retaliation or tampering, as well as prevent public speculation from interfering with fair trials or investigations. However, the secrecy can also fuel rumors and conspiracy theories that the investigation is biased or baseless, and can frustrate the public’s demand for transparency and accountability.
If the grand jury does not lead to charges or public disclosure, it may still have significant implications for Trump, the Trump Organization, and the broader political and legal landscape. The mere existence of a grand jury investigating a former president and his family enterprise can damage their reputation and credibility, and can embolden their opponents or critics. It can also signal a greater willingness by law enforcement agencies to scrutinize and prosecute white-collar crimes, regardless of the political or social status of the suspects. Moreover, it can set a precedent for future investigations of presidential wrongdoing, and can alter the balance of power between the executive and judicial branches of government.
In conclusion, the reconvening of the grand jury investigating Trump and his business empire is a major event in the ongoing saga of his post-presidency. It may lead to new revelations, charges, or legal battles, or it may encounter obstacles or delays. Whatever the outcome, it underscores the growing importance of transparency, accountability, and the rule of law in American politics and society. As the phrase engraved on the façade of the Supreme Court reads, “Equal Justice Under Law.” Whether that ideal can be achieved in practice remains to be seen, but the grand jury’s reconvening is a step towards that goal.