Trump indictment decision pushed back as jury fails to meet

NEW YORK: The drama surrounding Donald Trump’s possible indictment over hush money paid to a porn star took a new twist on Wednesday (Mar 22), after a New York grand jury failed to convene as expected – pushing back a decision, potentially into next week.

Speculation that a historic indictment of a former president may be imminent has been building ever since Trump himself announced he was expecting to be arrested.

But Wednesday’s grand jury session was called off, unnamed law enforcement officials told multiple US outlets, without giving a reason. The New York Times reported that such interruptions are not unusual.

With barricades outside Trump Tower and police on high alert, New York has been holding its breath over an expected indictment for days – with tension peaking on Tuesday, the day Trump said he would be arrested. He wasn’t.

The jury panel usually meets on Thursdays too but Insider, which broke the news of the cancelled meeting, quoted one source as saying it may not gather again this week, meaning the earliest a decision might come is Monday.

The 76-year-old Republican would become the first former or sitting president to ever be charged with a crime if the panel eventually votes to indict.

The unprecedented move would send shockwaves through the 2024 election campaign, in which Trump is running to regain office.

It would also raise the prospect of a former leader of the free world being arrested, booked, fingerprinted and possibly handcuffed.

The Times has reported that Trump favours the idea of being paraded in front of cameras by law enforcement, in what is known as a perp walk. Prosecutor Alvin Bragg likely wants to avoid any spectacle that could rile up Trump’s base.

Bragg formed the grand jury – a citizens’ panel tasked with deciding whether there is a case to answer – in January following his investigation into US$130,000 paid to Stormy Daniels in 2016.

Grand juries operate behind closed doors to prevent perjury or witness tampering before trials, making it virtually impossible to follow their proceedings.

A spokesperson for Bragg told AFP that she couldn’t comment “on grand jury matters”.

Even once the panel takes a decision, it is unclear when Bragg would announce any charges.

Legal experts have suggested it could take some time before Trump, currently at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, is arraigned before a Manhattan Criminal Court judge.

The payment to Daniels was made weeks before the 2016 election, allegedly to stop her from going public about a liaison she says she had with Trump years earlier.

Trump denies the affair and has called the inquiry a “witch hunt”.

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