The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has invited Donald Trump to appear next week in front of a grand jury that is weighing evidence about the former president’s alleged role in paying hush money to a porn star on the eve of the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter.
The move is the latest indication that Mr. Bragg, a Democrat, is nearing a decision on whether to bring a criminal case against Mr. Trump. Potential defendants in New York state have the right to appear in front of grand jurors, though they rarely choose to do so. People close to Mr. Trump say he is unlikely to accept the invitation.
The grand jury has heard or will soon hear testimony from all the individuals who played key roles in the hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, who alleged she had an affair with Mr. Trump. He has denied the affair and any wrongdoing.
“The Manhattan district attorney’s threat to indict President Trump is simply insane,” a Trump spokesman said in a statement. “For the past five years, the DA’s office has been on a witch hunt, investigating every aspect of President Trump’s life.”
Mr. Trump said the investigation was politically motivated, and noted that Mr. Bragg’s predecessor had investigated the payment but didn’t bring charges. “I did absolutely nothing wrong,” Mr. Trump wrote on his social-media network.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Bragg declined to comment.
The New York Times earlier reported on the district attorney’s offer to Mr. Trump.
The former president is now running for the office again and said last weekend that he would continue to do so even if he is indicted in any of the cases facing him.
A special counsel is investigating his storage of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and a special grand jury earlier this year concluded its investigation into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, which could lead to criminal charges. There is also a federal investigation into the attempts by Mr. Trump and his allies to stop the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s win in 2020, actions that led to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
Lawyer Michael Cohen, who represented Mr. Trump in the hush-money deal, testified publicly that Mr. Trump directed him to pay off Ms. Daniels to keep her from going public about an alleged affair with Mr. Trump at a vulnerable point in his presidential campaign. Mr. Cohen met with prosecutors earlier this week to prepare for his coming grand jury appearance.
Mr. Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2018, said he tapped his own line of credit for the $130,000 agreement with Ms. Daniels, but Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization later reimbursed Mr. Cohen in monthly installments disguised as legal expenses, federal prosecutors alleged in Mr. Cohen’s 2018 criminal case.
The grand jury in the matter is made up of more than 20 jurors, with a near-even split of men and women, led by a foreman, according to people familiar with the proceedings. Prosecutors have conducted the proceedings, but the grand jurors have posed their own questions to witnesses about the events surrounding the payment to Ms. Daniels, the people said.
Witnesses to date include David Pecker, the former chief executive of the tabloid publisher who aided Mr. Trump’s campaign by intercepting negative stories about the then-candidate but declined to buy Ms. Daniels’s story; Jeffrey McConney, a longtime Trump Organization executive; Dylan Howard, one of Mr. Pecker’s former lieutenants; and Keith Davidson, Ms. Daniels’s lawyer in the deal, said people familiar with the matter.
While the facts around the payment have been public for years, building a state prosecution on those facts presents potential challenges. Under New York law, one potential charge, falsifying business records, is a misdemeanor but it can become a low-level felony if the conduct is committed in connection with another crime.
Mr. Bragg’s office is separately investigating whether the Trump Organization and its former finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, made misrepresentations about Mr. Trump’s financial statements to an insurance underwriter, resulting in more favorable insurance terms, according to people familiar with that probe. Prosecutors have continued to pursue that line of inquiry during the grand-jury presentation, those people said.