Legal expert explains the specific crime under investigation in Manhattan Trump probe
Donald Trump delivering a speech at a campaign rally held at the Mohegan Sun Arena. (Evan El-Amin /

Former President Donald Trump is facing renewed legal jeopardy in New York, as The New York Times reports that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg convenes a grand jury related to the hush payments the former president arranged his one-time attorney and fixer Michael Cohen to transmit to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Speaking to MSNBC's Chris Jansing on Monday, former federal prosecutor Harry Litman outlined the likely type of charges Bragg wants to pursue against Trump.

"The Times said 'Mr. Bragg’s decision to impanel a grand jury focused on the hush money — supercharging the longest-running criminal investigation into Mr. Trump — represents a dramatic escalation in an inquiry that once appeared to have reached a dead end,'" said Jansing. "What does this tell you? By the way, they're suggesting this may not be a regular grand jury, but a special grand jury, Harry."

"First, it stands to reason that it is a special grand jury that will meet to consider the charges," said Litman. "As The Times says, this has had quite a tortuous history. [Bragg's predecessor] Cyrus Vance Jr. wanted to bring charges. Bragg himself decided not to. Now it looks like he wants to go forward. The core here, Stormy Daniels basically is getting hush money, and that payment seems to have been characterized on the books as a legal fee to Michael Cohen, which it wasn't. That's the New York crime, although there are different ways they could try to characterize it."

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Litman added that the prosecutors have clear evidence for this offense, including that "Cohen talks by phone to Trump twice the day before he wires the payment."

"It looks as though the testimony, Chris, has begun today with David Pecker, the head of the National Enquirer who was agreeing to kill the story," said Litman. "But all in all, it's that lurid hush money, but the actual crime in New York has to do with mischaracterization of the payments. That looks as what they're going after."

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