A grand jury in New York has been hearing evidence in private meetings for several weeks over whether to bring criminal charges against Donald Trump, and there are suggestions it could happen this week.

The jury has been called as part of an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office into alleged hush-money payments made on the former president’s behalf to a porn star in order to buy her silence.

The near five-year probe has sparked a flurry of news this week as possible charges against Mr Trump seem a real possibility.

It began over the weekend when the 76-year-old declared he would be arrested on Tuesday over the investigation, citing “illegal leaks” that suggested law enforcement and security agencies were preparing for an indictment this week.

An indictment is formal notice given to a person suspected of committing a crime, which details the charges against them.

It was followed by pockets of protests by his supporters in New York and in Florida, where Mr Trump resides at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Some Republican officials, including his former vice president Mike Pence, have also spoke out against the “politically charged prosecution”.

Supporters of former US President Donald Trump protest near Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, on March 21, 2023. - The former president is expected to be indicted over hush money paid to a porn actress, with Trump calling for mass demonstrations if he is charged. (Photo by Giorgio Viera / AFP) (Photo by GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of former US president Donald Trump protest near Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida (Photo: Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty Images)

What are the charges facing Mr Trump?

It is unclear what charges Mr Trump is facing, but the Manhattan inquiry is investigating whether his company falsified business records over the $130,000 (£106,000) hush money payment made to Stormy Daniels.

The payment was made in the run-up to the 2016 election, following an alleged affair between the porn star and the former president.

Mr Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, said he paid Ms Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, through a shell company before being reimbursed by his employer – and the Trump Organization logged the reimbursement as legal expenses.

While there has been no public announcement of when or if charges could be brought against Mr Trump, New York police and secret service officials have reportedly met to discuss security plans should he be charged and brought to Manhattan for his first court appearance, known as an arraignment, as part of the case.

Will Mr Trump be handcuffed?

Defendants are usually made to walk in handcuffs through a hallway in court where news media can capture photos or videos of them. It is known informally as a “perp walk”.

How Mr Trump should be treated should he become a criminal defendant has become a central issue in negotiations between the Manhattan district attorney’s office and law enforcement agencies, including the US Secret Service, which is tasked with protecting former presidents.

One source familiar with the negotiations told Yahoo News that normal rules may not apply to Mr Trump. “This is not normal,” they said. “This is somebody who has a protective detail.”

Former President Donald J. Trump waves as he arrives for the NCAA Wrestling Championships, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Mr Trump arrives for the NCAA Wrestling Championships on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma (Photo: Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Anna Cominsky, a professor at New York Law School and former criminal defence lawyer, said she believes Mr Trump’s lawyers will work out a deal with the prosecutor’s office to avoid the spectacle of a perp walk.

“There is a great likelihood that he will self-surrender, which means you won’t see a 5am knock on Mar-a-Lago’s door, officers swarming his house and arresting him and bringing him out in handcuffs,” she told the Associated Press.

“He would appear at the prosecutor’s office voluntarily and then be processed, fingerprinted and his picture taken.”

If charged, Mr Trump may not be arraigned until next week, a law enforcement source told Fox News, as another witness is being brought before the grand jury this week.

What does a grand jury do?

Before an indictment is made for felony charges (serious offences), a prosecutor will present the evidence to an impartial group of citizens called a grand jury.

Unlike a trial jury, which decides whether a person is guilty or innocent, the grand jury only considers whether there is sufficient evidence for someone to be charged. Grand jury proceedings are also held in private and no judge is present.

The grand jury may decide that there is not enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, or may direct the prosecutor to file lesser charges.

The grand jury in the Manhattan inquiry is reportedly expected to vote on whether to indict Mr Trump on Wednesday, according to television network NewsNation, citing unidentified sources.

Who has given evidence so far?

The grand jury has heard evidence from witnesses called by the prosecution, including Mr Cohen, who pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws among other charges related to the case in 2018.

One of the final witnesses called to give evidence before the grand jury was Robert Costello, who was once a legal adviser to Mr Cohen before the pair had a falling out.

Mr Costello was reportedly called by Mr Trump’s legal team to give evidence on Monday to undermine Mr Cohen’s testimony and contradict his incriminating statements about the former president.

Speaking after his grand jury appearance, Mr Costello said: “If they want to go after Donald Trump and they have solid evidence then so be it. But Michael Cohen is far from solid evidence.”

What is the case about?

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his team are investigating Mr Trump’s involvement in the $130,000 payment made to Ms Daniels.

The investigation appears to be looking at whether Mr Trump or anyone committed crimes in New York state in arranging the payments, or the way the Trump Organization compensated Mr Cohen for his work to keep Ms Daniel’s allegations quiet.

Mr Trump denies any wrongdoing and has slammed the Manhattan probe as politically motivated.

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