Kellyanne Conway, who managed the final months of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 campaign, met with prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Wednesday, the latest sign that the office is ramping up its criminal investigation into the former president.
The prosecutors are scrutinizing Mr. Trump’s role in a hush money payment to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who has said she had an affair with him. The $130,000 payment was made by Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer, Michael D. Cohen, in the closing days of the 2016 campaign, and Mr. Trump ultimately reimbursed him.
Mr. Cohen has said that Ms. Conway played a small yet notable role in the payment: she was the person Mr. Cohen alerted after making the payment, he wrote in his 2020 memoir.
“I called Trump to confirm that the transaction was completed, and the documentation all in place, but he didn’t take my call — obviously a very bad sign, in hindsight,” he wrote. Instead, he wrote, Ms. Conway “called and said she’d pass along the good news.”
Ms. Conway, who was seen walking into the district attorney’s office shortly before 2 p.m. on Wednesday, is the latest in a string of witnesses to meet with prosecutors in the last month or so. Since the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, impaneled a grand jury in January to hear evidence about Mr. Trump’s role in paying the hush money, at least five witnesses have testified: Jeffrey McConney and Deborah Tarasoff, employees of Mr. Trump’s company; David Pecker and Dylan Howard, two former leaders of The National Enquirer, which helped arrange the hush money deal; and Keith Davidson, a former lawyer for Ms. Daniels.
The decision to question those central players in the hush money saga before the grand jury suggests that Mr. Bragg is nearing a decision on whether to seek an indictment of the former president.
A spokeswoman for the office and a lawyer for Ms. Conway declined to comment. It is unclear whether Ms. Conway appeared before the grand jury or was only interviewed by prosecutors.
Still, the investigation is not complete. Mr. Cohen has met with the prosecutors for several hours of questioning, though he has yet to testify in front of the grand jury. Ms. Daniels herself has yet to be interviewed, and Ms. Conway might not be the last 2016 campaign official to face questioning.
It is one of three potential criminal cases looming over Mr. Trump, even as he remains a front-runner in the 2024 presidential campaign. In addition to Mr. Bragg’s inquiry, Mr. Trump could face charges from a local prosecutor in Georgia investigating whether he interfered in the 2020 election. And at the federal level, a special counsel is scrutinizing Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the election — including whether he committed any crimes in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol — as well as his handling of classified documents.
Mr. Trump has denied all wrongdoing and accused the investigators of carrying out a politically motivated witch hunt. He has also denied having an affair with Ms. Daniels.
In Manhattan, any case would likely center on whether Mr. Trump was involved with the falsification of business records related to the payment to Ms. Daniels. When Mr. Trump repaid Mr. Cohen for the $130,000 payout to Ms. Daniels, the Trump Organization falsely recorded the reimbursements as legal expenses.
It can be a crime in New York to falsify business records. But to make it a felony, Mr. Bragg’s prosecutors would have to show that Mr. Trump was involved in the falsification of the records to help commit or conceal a second crime — in this case, likely a violation of New York State election law, a legal theory that has not been tested.
The case would rely on testimony from Mr. Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges over the payments in 2018. Mr. Cohen is expected to meet with prosecutors again in the coming days.
If Mr. Trump were ultimately convicted, he would face a maximum sentence of four years, though prison time would not be mandatory and a conviction is hardly assured. Mr. Trump’s lawyers would likely seek to undermine Mr. Cohen’s testimony, arguing that he is a convicted criminal and admitted liar who has an ax to grind against Mr. Trump.
Ms. Conway remained one of Mr. Trump’s top aides when he ascended to the White House, staying on until the summer of 2020. She still speaks with Mr. Trump and is close to his wife, Melania. But her husband, George Conway, is a vocal antagonist of the former president, and Ms. Conway herself has been equivocal about his chances at regaining the White House.
In January, she considered his prospects in an Op-Ed, writing that the case against his candidacy rested in part on concerns that he “cannot outrun the mountain of legal woes.”
Kate Christobek and Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.
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