Trump claims on social media that he expects to be arrested on Tuesday
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We do not know what the Manhattan district attorney is about to do. We do know that his office has been investigating Donald Trump for the payment of hush money years ago. And the former president claims on social media that he expects to be indicted on Tuesday. He called for protest, which prompted District Attorney Alvin Bragg to say his office will not be intimidated, whatever they do. Matthew Galluzzo is watching all this. He is a former prosecutor in that Manhattan DA's office and joins us this morning from Connecticut. Welcome.
MATTHEW GALLUZZO: Good morning.
INSKEEP: I guess we'll remind people, in this case, there were payments to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star who said she had an affair with Trump and was being asked to hush it up. What facts about that case would be of interest to prosecutors?
GALLUZZO: Sure. Well, I think the most important aspect for the prosecutor's perspective is why the business records were falsified as they were because as you know, the - Mr. Cohen did not report those as hush money payments but reported those as a different kind of expense for the organization. And that would be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the reasons for doing it.
INSKEEP: Oh, yeah. Michael Cohen, that's the president's former attorney who arranged this payoff. And it's interesting what you're saying. There's a payment of hush money, paying someone to be silent. It sounds like you can do that. That's legal. But it's actually covering up the payment itself that would be the falsifying business record, saying where the money came from and went. Is that right?
GALLUZZO: That's exactly right. It's the false entry with an intent to defraud or an intent to commit some other crime, which in this case might have been related to laws about campaign finance.
INSKEEP: Now, Trump and his supporters, of course, are describing this as a political prosecution. Let's just try to put it in context. Is it frequent, is it common that someone is prosecuted for falsifying a business record?
GALLUZZO: Well, yes and no. It's not uncommon to be prosecuted for falsifying business records. It's pretty uncommon to be prosecuting an ex-president for falsifying hush money payments. I think that's unprecedented.
GALLUZZO: So yes and no.
INSKEEP: Well, I guess you would want to be able to say that even though he is a former president, he's being treated like anybody else. I will note the payoff was seven years ago. Is it reasonable that investigators are still pursuing this seven years later?
GALLUZZO: Well, the reason for it really is because he was president in that interim period. And, you know, we have a general policy of not prosecuting presidents for any sorts of crimes while they're sitting as president. There's going to be an interesting argument about the statute of limitations because a misdemeanor is supposed to expire in two years and a felony in five. And arguably, both of those statute of limitations have passed. It's going to be an argument that he was living outside of New York state, and so we have extra time to prosecute him.
INSKEEP: OK. So a couple of questions quickly about Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan DA. First, how do you assess his efforts so far to show he is being evenhanded and nonpolitical?
GALLUZZO: Well, he has at least invited Donald Trump to testify in the grand jury. We've heard that. And so he's giving him that opportunity and at least trying to present himself as being fair-minded and giving him a chance to put his defense in front of the grand jury. But otherwise, I mean, I guess he's - we're going to see what happens after the indictment comes down. We're going to see what he's charged with. And we'll see how he pursues the case after that.
INSKEEP: Does Bragg have some credibility? Because there was an earlier case in which some people in his office apparently wanted to prosecute Donald Trump, and Bragg said, I've looked at this - the evidence isn't there. I'm not going to go forward with this.
GALLUZZO: I'm not sure that's going to matter to the people that Donald Trump is speaking to about this, to his base, you know, whether or not he dismissed an earlier case. They may just see that as further proof that there's nothing there. But maybe.
INSKEEP: When you hear Bragg say, we will not be intimidated by these threats of protests or whatever else, do you find that credible? You think that he will go ahead and do what he feels he needs to do?
GALLUZZO: I think he will. I think if he gets his indictment from the grand jury, I don't think he's going to dismiss it just because, you know, there are protesters in the streets. I know he's had communications with local law enforcement about, you know, providing extra security at the courts and for the prosecutors and for everyone else involved. And so it seems that he's not going to let that influence his decision.
INSKEEP: Former New York prosecutor Matthew Galluzzo, thanks very much for your insights.
GALLUZZO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.