Former President Donald Trump does not plan to testify in a New York grand jury investigation into his alleged role in a scheme to pay hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels, Trump’s attorney told CNN on Monday.
The attorney, Joe Tacopina, also appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday and said Trump has “no plans on participating” in the Manhattan grand jury and that Trump lawyer Susan Necheles has been in communication with prosecutors.
Prosecutors have invited the former president to appear before the grand jury investigating his alleged role in the payment and the cover-up, a person familiar with the matter previously said, indicating a decision on charging Trump may come soon.
“My goal is to tell the truth,” former Trump attorney Michael Cohen said to reporters in lower Manhattan on Monday as he prepared to testify before the grand jury. “My goal is to allow Alvin Bragg and his team to do what they need to do. I’m just here to answer the questions.”
Cohen also said that he would be willing to testify if the case went to trial.
Tacopina also railed against prosecutors’ efforts. He is calling on the New York City Department of Investigation, the city’s inspector general, to investigate what he calls the “weaponization” of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, according to a letter released Monday morning.
“It’s not what we do. This is not what we do. We are distorting laws to try and bag President Trump. I don’t know if it’s because he’s leading in the polls,” Tacopina said on Good Morning America. “I don’t know what it is, but this prosecutor and this prosecutor’s office has made an agenda. They have scoured his personal life and business life for seven years to try to find something.”
Asked whether Trump authorized the $130,000 payment made to Daniels days before the 2016 election, Tacopina said: “It’s not directly related.” Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels.
“Let’s assume he did, for this argument,” Tacopina said. “This was a plain extortion. I don’t know when we started prosecuting extortion victims. He has vehemently denied this affair. But he had to pay money because there was going to be an allegation that was going to be publicly embarrassing to him, regardless of the campaign.”
Tacopina later added: “There is no nexus to any extortion payment to being a campaign contribution.”
Prosecutors are weighing whether to charge Trump with falsifying the business records of the Trump Organization for how they reflected the reimbursement of the payment to Cohen, who said he advanced the money to Daniels. They are also weighing whether to charge Trump with falsifying business records in the first degree for allegedly falsifying a record with the intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal another crime, which in this case could be a violation of campaign finance laws.
Tacopina also asserted that to his knowledge, “there was absolutely no false records made” within the Trump Organization regarding the payments. “I wasn’t there at the time, but my understanding of these facts is clearly there was no false record made.”
Tacopina also sought to draw a distinction between the use of campaign funds and personal funds. “He made this with personal funds to prevent something from coming out, false, that is embarrassing to himself, his family, his young son. That is not a campaign finance violation by any stretch,” Tacopina said.
He also argued that “as long as there’s no tax ramifications or campaign ramifications; it’s not a crime. Whatever I do in a personal setting is different.”