This is CNBC’s live blog tracking developments Thursday of ongoing criminal investigations into former U.S. President Donald Trump, including the Manhattan grand jury’s probe. See below for the latest updates. Follow our live coverage of the New York grand jury’s indictment of former President Donald Trump.
The New York City grand jury that is weighing whether to criminally charge former President Donald Trump is set to resume work at noon on Thursday after an unexpected day off.
But those proceedings might not be related to the investigation of a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election from Michael Cohen, who was Trump’s personal lawyer at that time.
Instead, the grand jury is expected to handle another case, unrelated to the payoff.
But Trump faces three other serious criminal inquiries in Washington, D.C., and Georgia, as he seeks the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
On Friday, his lawyer Evan Corcoran is expected to testify to a federal grand jury in Washington that is hearing evidence in a Department of Justice probe of Trump’s retention of classified government records at his Florida residence after leaving the White House.
The DOJ is also investigating Trump for his efforts to reverse his 2020 Electoral College loss to President Joe Biden. And an Atlanta grand jury is eyeing Trump and his allies for pressuring Georgia officials to undo his loss to Biden in the state’s popular vote that year.
In the Manhattan case, Cohen and Daniels, who’s also known as Stephanie Clifford, have both said the $130,000 was paid to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006.
Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, used the term “legal expenses” in business documents to record payments he made to Cohen to cover the cost of paying off Daniels as well as taxes he owed on that money.
Attorneys for Trump and his former vice president Mike Pence attended a sealed hearing in federal court in Washington, D.C., as the Department of Justice seeks Pence’s testimony before the grand jury looking at Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, NBC News reported.
The outcome of the hearing, which was closed to the public, was not known.
The DOJ wants Pence to testify at the D.C. grand jury for its investigation of Trump’s attempt to get Pence to refuse to certify on Jan. 6, 2021, the Electoral College ballots of several states won by President Joe Biden.
Pence and lawmakers that day fled a mob of Trump supporters who disrupted a joint session of Congress that was certifying Biden’s victory.
Trump’s lawyers are trying to block a subpoena for Pence’s testimony by arguing it is protected by executive privilege.
Pence, on the other hand, says his role as president of the Senate protects him from being compelled to give such testimony.
— Dan Mangan
Trump spent nearly five hours at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida, as he continued facing the possibility that grand juries in New York and Washington, D.C., will indict him in separate criminal cases.
During his visit to the Trump International Golf Club, NBC News reported, the former president posted a message on his social media side with a video of Academy Award-winning actor Jon Voight smoothly swinging at a ball there.
“The great Jon Voight hitting golf balls, for the first time in 30 years,” Trump wrote in the Truth Social post. “A natural, his father was a highly respected PGA Golf Professional.”
Voight is a Trump backer, having once called him “the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.”
— Dan Mangan
Trump’s growing lead in polls of the Republican presidential primary may not be undercut by news of his possible indictment, a top pollster told CNBC.
“At its root, MAGA is about the politics of grievance more than any other particular issue,” Patrick Murray, the director of the Independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, told CNBC in a phone interview.
“The irony is, the more that [Trump] comes under scrutiny, then the more he epitomizes what the MAGA movement is all about and moves them back into his camp,” Murray said.
Monmouth’s most recent poll of the potential GOP primary field showed Trump pulling ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is considered the ex-president’s biggest rival even though he has not yet announced a White House bid. When Monmouth asked Republican voters who they would like to see as the 2024 GOP presidential nominee, 41% picked Trump and 27% chose DeSantis.
The survey was conducted between March 16 to March 20 — mostly before the news cycle became dominated by the possibility that Trump could be indicted by the Manhattan district attorney. The poll of 521 Republicans and Republican-leaning voters carries a 6.6-point margin of error.
— Kevin Breuninger
The sequel to the 2019 film “Joker” is set to shoot a scene near the courthouse where throngs of journalists have gathered for days in anticipation of Trump’s possible indictment.
The film shoot is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, according to signs posted in the area near the lower Manhattan criminal courthouse.
Those signs, snapshots of which were posted by NBC News and other outlets, listed the project name as “Juliet.” Film blogs have reported that that is the working title for “Joker: Folie a Deux,” which is set for release in October 2024.
The name is no mere placeholder. The original film, which grossed more than $1 billion worldwide to become the most successful R-rated film ever made, was produced under the working title “Romeo.”
“We’re going to be filming in the Foley Square area,” said a source familiar with the production who requested anonymity to talk about the upcoming scene.
The source would neither confirm nor deny that the project was indeed the sequel to “Joker,” the blockbuster film that earned Joaquin Phoenix an Oscar for best actor. Other top names announced for the sequel include Brendan Gleeson, Zazie Beetz and Lady Gaga, who is playing Harley Quinn opposite Phoenix.
Asked about reporting from NBC that this weekend’s shoot would feature Lady Gaga, hundreds of protesters and explosions, the source said there were “definitely not going to be any explosions.”
— Kevin Breuninger
President Joe Biden faces a political risk if he publicly comments on any criminal charges filed against Trump, his leading opponent in the 2024 election, Democratic strategists and White House allies told NBC News.
“If Mr. Trump is indicted by a state grand jury, Mr. Biden would be wise not to comment on that criminal case, in part because there is an ongoing federal investigation being conducted by a special counsel within the Justice Department,” said NBC News legal analyst Chuck Rosenberg, who’s a former Virginia U.S. attorney.
There are actually two federal criminal investigations of Trump by special counsel Jack Smith, one related to efforts to reverse Biden’s Electoral College win in 2020, the other related to the removal of classified government documents when Trump left office.
Lis Smith, a Democratic strategist, said, “It would be smart for Democrats to let this unfold and not politicize it too much.”
“If they do jump all over it, it gives Donald Trump and the Republicans an opportunity to say this is a witch hunt,” Smith said.
— Dan Mangan
A push from House Republicans to get Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to testify about his probe and expected indictment of Trump is “unprecedented,” an advisor to Bragg told GOP lawmakers Thursday.
The Manhattan DA’s general counsel, Leslie Dubeck, offered a scathing response to GOP lawmakers in a letter addressed to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky. and House Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil, R-Wisc. She called their request “an unprecedent inquiry into a pending local prosecution” that only came about after Trump “created a false expectation” that he would be arrested Tuesday.
The original letter from the three House Republicans on Monday requested testimony and documents from Bragg about the expected indictment of Trump in a case related to a hush money payment his former lawyer Michael Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election. Trump was not arrested on Tuesday, and the grand jury deciding the former president’s fate may not decide whether to indict him until next week, according to NBC New York.
In responding to Republicans, Dubeck questioned congressional authority to look into Bragg’s investigation.
“Congress is not the appropriate branch to review pending criminal matters,” Dubeck said in the letter to Jordan and the two other House Republicans dated Thursday.
— Brian Schwartz
Trump raged against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on social media, calling for him to drop the hush money case and likening his investigation to a Nazi secret police force.
“WHY WON’T BRAGG DROP THIS CASE?” Trump said in a pair of all-caps posts on Truth Social, asserting that there was “OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE” clearing him of wrongdoing.
“HE IS A SOROS BACKED ANIMAL WHO JUST DOESN’T CARE ABOUT RIGHT OR WRONG NO MATTER HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE HURT,” Trump said of Bragg, referring to billionaire political donor George Soros.
Numerous Republicans have accused Bragg of being closely tied to or controlled by Soros, though some of those claims are overblown.
Trump’s post added: “THIS IS NO LEGAL SYSTEM, THIS IS THE GESTAPO, THIS IS RUSSIA AND CHINA BUT WORSE.”
— Kevin Breuninger
The grand jury is scheduled to resume its work at noon, but it appears likely to hear evidence on a different case other than the one involving the hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels by Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen, NBC News reported.
While the situation is still fluid, three people familiar with the matter said the panel may not work on the Trump payoff probe until Monday.
The development was first reported by Insider.
The grand jury was given off Wednesday, despite an earlier expectation that it would take up the Trump case after a scheduled break Tuesday.
The reason for the latest scheduling choices is unclear. The grand jury’s proceedings are secret.
The panel began meeting in January to hear testimony as part of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation of a 2016 hush money payment to a porn star who alleges she had a tryst with Trump.
Trump last weekend said he expected to be arrested on Tuesday, but that prediction turned out to be wrong.
— Kevin Breuninger
Trump’s legal troubles may be looming overhead, but the 2024 presidential frontrunner is keeping at least enough focus on the Republican primary race to trash his biggest possible rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
In a lengthy statement Wednesday evening, Trump tore into DeSantis over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, his past views on reforming popular entitlement programs and his state’s performance in education and crime.
“HARDLY GREATNESS THERE!” Trump said in all caps in the 324-word statement.
The fusillade came as DeSantis, who is widely expected to launch a presidential bid in the coming months, appeared to take some of his first jabs at Trump this week after mostly declining to respond to the ex-president’s intensifying attacks.
“The fact is, Ron is an average Governor,” Trump’s statement said, “but the best by far in the Country in one category, Public Relations, where he easily ranks Number One.”
“And we don’t want Ron as our President!” he added.
DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
— Kevin Breuninger
The Trump grand jury’s return to work means that an indictment against the former president could be voted on within hours.
But there’s no guarantee that will happen.
Trump’s legal team, journalists and other observers were able to exhale Wednesday when news broke that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg had given the grand jury an unexpected day off.
The news meant that Trump would not be indicted that day, as the panel members need to be at the Manhattan Criminal Court in lower Manhattan to hold an in-person vote on any potential charges.
Now that they are back to work, Bragg could ask them to conduct that vote. But it’s also possible that the grand jury will only be required to hear testimony from another witness or witnesses.
The panel’s proceedings are conducted out of public view. The grand jury is known to be able to convene on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, so if the latest session does not result in an indictment, the waiting game will continue another several more days, over the weekend.
— Dan Mangan