Stormy Daniels enters the chat in Manhattan DA’s criminal indictment of Donald Trump

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Even as Michael Cohen gave the last of his testimony on Wednesday to the grand jury that’s on the verge of criminally indicting Donald Trump, a new name entered the chat – and a familiar one. Stormy Daniels met with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office on Wednesday, and then she and her attorney announced that she stands ready to testify as needed.

This set off a fair amount of confusion. Did this mean that Daniels was preparing to testify to the grand jury? If so, when will she testify? Wasn’t Michael Cohen supposed to be the final grand jury witness? And come to think of it, why did we never once hear Stormy’s name mentioned as a witness while this grand jury process was ramping up?

We still don’t have any of those answers for certain. But we do know some things. For instance, Daniels’ testimony is not needed to prove Trump’s guilt, because the hush money itself wasn’t the crime. Trump committed his crimes while attempting to bury the payment, in his campaign finances and his corporate finances. So it’s entirely plausible that Daniels wasn’t slotted as a grand jury witness to begin with, and that she’s still not going to testify to the grand jury.

If that’s the case, why was she meeting with the District Attorney’s office? Here’s my educated guess. Over the past several days Trump and his team have begun publicly floating the notion that Daniels was extorting Trump into paying the $130,000. That’s obviously false. And even if that were true, under the law, it still wouldn’t get Trump off the hook for illegally burying the payment in the books. But it is enough to raise the possibility that Trump’s lawyers could try to call Daniels as a witness at trial, and try to get her to crack on the stand.

If this is indeed the case, then it would make sense that the DA’s office would want to meet with her in advance, in order to hear her potential testimony now, and make sure that Trump’s legal team can’t spring any surprises at trial. In such case Trump and his lawyers may have blown their attempt at pulling a surprise defense at trial by running their mouths ahead of time. But that’s what happens when you’re too busy trying to win the case in the court of public opinion to remember that the case is actually decided in the court of law.

If my educated guess is correct about why the DA’s office brought in Stormy Daniels today, and if she’s still not slotted to testify to the grand jury, then the grand jury process really is already finished. All that would be left is for the DA to give his closing statement to the grand jury, and then for the grand jury to vote.

For all we know there’s a chance that this already happened today after Cohen’s testimony wrapped up, which appears to have been at around 4pm. Even if it didn’t happen today, it’s still a quick process (perhaps a couple hours), but it will have to wait until the next day the grand jury is in session. That makes it tricky to predict, because there are still conflicting reports about which days of the week the grand jury meets.

So at this point, which day is the indictment likely to drop? If the grand jury did secretly vote on the indictment today, it could be announced as soon as Thursday morning. If the vote hasn’t happened yet, then we’re waiting for the next day the grand jury is in session. We’ll know soon enough.

In the meantime, we now know that Stormy Daniels is fully on board with cooperating in the indictment and criminal prosecution of Donald Trump. This appeared to be an overwhelmingly strong case against Trump even before we knew about Daniels being on board. Now it appears to be even stronger. And it looks like Trump’s desire to win the daily news cycle may have cost him whatever weak defense strategy he was planning to use at trial.

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