- An uncanny lack of secrecy surrounds the secret Trump ‘hush money’ grand jury now underway in NY.
- Grand jury witnesses, lawyers, and Trump himself are shouting about each other on TV and online.
- The hubbub makes it look like the ever-looming indictment is taking forever. It’s not, experts say.
Here’s something fun: Do a Google News search on the words “Trump” and “looming.”
You’ll get hundreds of stories about the New York “hush-money” indictment currently “looming” over the head of former President Donald Trump. The stories go back more than two weeks, starting with The New York Times’ first prediction that an indictment could be soon.
Since then, this internationally awaited potential indictment has been looming all over the networks. It’s looming on cable news. It’s looming in print headlines. It’s looming in the headlines of online news outlets big and small, including, at least a dozen times, on Insider.
Not since Michael Myers in the last “Halloween” movie has an unreal thing loomed so persistently, so protractedly, and with so much attendant breathless suspense, as this yet-hypothetical Trump indictment vote.
“Is there a statute of limitations on looming?” veteran Manhattan defense lawyer Ron Kuby wondered of the phenomenon. “Or can it loom in perpetuity, until it happens?”
Yet despite its incessant looming (it’s also nearing, approaching, and threatening, to name a few less-popular present participles), Trump’s anticipated indictment vote by a Manhattan grand jury only seems to be taking forever.
In fact, “Why is it taking so long” is actually the wrong question, according to Kuby and other Manhattan attorneys.
The right question may be, “Why is this supposedly secret grand jury such a honking, spotlit spectacle?”
For 30 years, Manhattan attorney Diana Florence led grand jury investigations into white-collar crimes for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the same office investigating Trump.
She has never seen such dense and breathless coverage of a grand jury’s purpose and timing.
She’s never seen so many grand jury witnesses and their lawyers holding press conferences on the district attorney’s front steps and trash-talking each other in the media.
Every day brings more speculation about one more witness and about apparent stops and starts in the presentation of evidence.
None of this is normal, and keeping up is exhausting. It’s no wonder this all seems to be taking forever, Florence said.
“This is unprecedented,” said Florence, who estimates that before going into private practice two years ago she presented some 200 white-collar cases in the same grand jury room where the Trump panel meets.
“There’s never been anything like this,” she said. “The grand jury is usually pretty boring, you know?”
Speculation that an indictment is either “looming” or “delayed,” and that a “surprise” grand jury witness is either appearing or no longer appearing only spawns false narratives, said former Manhattan prosecutor Jeremy Saland.
Last weekend, Trump claimed, without evidence, that he would be arrested in precisely three days, on a Tuesday.
When Tuesday came and went without an arrest, Trump’s false narrative changed to one of “total disarray” inside the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
“Tremendous dissension and chaos because they have NO CASE,” Trump “truthed” on Thursday, after Insider broke the news that the grand jury presentation was on pause for the rest of the week.
Prosecutors are considering charging Trump with felony charges of falsifying business records, his lawyers believe.
The charges would concern Trump’s alleged role in indirectly paying adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 in the days before the 2016 election to stay quiet about a one-night stand she claims they had in 2006.
Federal prosecutors have called the “hush money” payment an illegal campaign contribution.
Grand jurors, prosecutors, and even the court stenographer are barred from talking about what happens in the grand jury room, said Kuby, and that’s true even after an indictment.
“The process of the grand jury is secret,” as a matter of state law, he noted. “The deliberations are secret, and the materials submitted to the grand jury are secret,” he said.
But witnesses, defense lawyers, and the grand jury target himself — Trump — have no such obligation.
State law says they can yap all they like.
And so we get star prosecution witness Michael Cohen holding press conferences after his testimony. And a defense rebuttal witness, attorney Robert Costello, dumping on Cohen’s credibility after his own testimony.
“The defendant, the target of the grand jury, usually says nothing, let alone publically planning how they’re going to look in handcuffs,” Kuby said.
We even get Stormy Daniels, a potential witness, tweeting about Trump’s “slippery fingers.”
And, disturbingly, we get Trump mocking calls for his supporters to be peaceful and warning of “death and destruction” if he is charged.
“All of the children who are desperate for attention are getting the attention for which they are desperate,” Kuby said.
It is in this climate of threatened violence that law enforcement has responded to repeated hoax bomb threats in the Manhattan courthouse district.
On Friday, an envelope of white powder was sent to Bragg at the office building where the grand jury sits. The grand jury was not there that day, and the powder proved non-hazardous.
Despite the cacophony of coverage, the actual work of the grand jury has remained a secret, and it’s wrong to assume anything from how long that work is taking, noted Saland, the former prosecutor.
“There’s no actual looming going on,” Saland said. “It’s taking as long as it needs to take. And it has to end,” with or without an indictment, he added. “Grand juries don’t go on forever.”