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Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan on May 18, 2021.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan on May 18, 2021. (Photo: James Devaney/GC Images)

Trump Critics Celebrate 'Momentum' as Manhattan DA Convenes Grand Jury That Could Indict Ex-President

"The prosecutors are convinced they have a case. That's at least how I read it," said one legal expert.

Jessica Corbett

In a major step toward holding former President Donald Trump—who often spewed "law and order" rhetoric while in office—accountable for his various alleged crimes, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. has convened a grand jury that is set to decide whether to indict Trump, others at his company, or the business itself.

That's according to the Washington Post, which broke the news Tuesday evening, citing two unnamed sources, and reported that it suggests the Democratic D.A. "believes he has found evidence of a crime—if not by Trump then by someone potentially close to him or by his company." A spokesperson for Vance declined to comment.

Noting that "Vance has been a cautious prosecutor," Georgetown University public policy professor Donald Moynihan tweeted Tuesday that there is "no real reason to do this unless there is some solid evidence of wrongdoing in the Trump Organization."

While Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, neither a spokesperson for the Republican ex-president nor an attorney for the Trump Organization—which has been described as a "rat's nest of hundreds of ambiguous limited liability companies"—responded to the Post's requests for comment.

Critics of Trump, meanwhile, welcomed the newspaper's reporting.

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) pointed to his declaration from shortly after the November 2020 election that "Trump along with his worst enablers must be tried for their crimes against our nation and Constitution."

Last week, a spokesperson for Democratic New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office has "informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the company is no longer purely civil in nature," and that it is "now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan D.A."

Vance's decision to convene the special panel comes after more than two years of investigators in New York reviewing hush-money payments, executive compensation, property valuations, tax decisions, and other matters.

The D.A.'s probe has reportedly intensified since Trump left office—and in February, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his attempt to block the enforcement of a subpoena for his tax returns and other financial documents.

The special grand jury "will sit three days a week for six months," and "is likely to hear several matters—not just the Trump case," according to the Post.

New York Law School professor Rebecca Roiphe, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan, explained the potential significance of Vance's move to the paper:

Roiphe said the recent step of seating a long-term panel shows that Vance's investigation has progressed to the point that prosecutors will visit the grand jury, bring them evidence and witnesses, and potentially ask them to contemplate charges. They were unlikely to take that step without believing they had evidence to show there was probable cause to believe someone committed a crime, she said.

"The prosecutors are convinced they have a case. That's at least how I read it," Roiphe added.

Vance is planning to leave office at the end of the year; the Democratic primary for his replacement will be held next month.

In addition to the investigations in New York, Trump faces a criminal probe into alleged election interference in Georgia.

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