Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg could take “as long as he wants” to actually file an indictment against former president Donald Trump — no matter when the grand jury votes, experts say.
Former publisher of the National Enquirer David Pecker on Monday testified before the grand jury that has been hearing evidence against the former president in the DA’s Stormy Daniels “hush money” investigation since late January.
The panel, which sources said won’t convene in the case for the next month, could have voted on whether to indict Trump after Pecker’s testimony — but no one except the jurors and prosecutors would know for sure due to the secretive nature of the closed-door proceeding.
“The DA can take as long as he wants” to file an indictment with the clerks office, former Brooklyn prosecutor Adam Uris told The Post.
The main benefits in delaying handing up the indictment would be to buy time for Bragg’s office to negotiate Trump’s surrender for arrest and for the city to beef up security, Uris and other legal experts agreed.
Any delay could be an attempt “to keep the arrest and arraignment process from being a circus,” Uris said. “But It’s going to be a circus no matter what.”
Still, Uris noted Bragg wouldn’t want to wait too long to file an indictment because the defense could argue that the moment the grand jury foreperson signs it, the speedy trial clock – or the time by which Trump is entitled to go to trial – starts counting down.
Uris and other lawyers said given Trump’s calls for supporters to protest if he’s indicted and given how polarizing a figure he can be – security will be paramount to the city, the DA’s office and the Lower Manhattan courthouse.
Law enforcement will take “extraordinary steps to ensure the safety of court personnel and members of service, cops, etc.,” Uris said.
“I think an atmosphere has been created that lends itself to the possibility of political violence and I do think that law enforcement will take every opportunity to try to tamp that down.”
Bragg could also take any extra time to negotiate a surrender of Trump with his lawyers “as a courtesy. What Trump does with that, that is where the real circus will begin,” Uris said.
“My guess is eventually you will see Donald Trump and a team of lawyers walk into court rather than being led into court,” Uris said.
Another former Brooklyn prosecutor, Julie Rendelman, agreed that because a former president being indicted would be an “unparalleled event,” Bragg would want “as much time as possible” to prepare “for what’s to come and allow law enforcement along with the court to put safety measures in place for any potential public unrest.”
A former prosecutor in the Manhattan DA’s office, Michael Bachner, said “it’s not that unusual in long-term white collar criminal investigations” for a DA to delay filing an indictment.
It’s usually done for logistics, security or sometimes even as a courtesy to a defendant – who may have an upcoming wedding, vacation or holiday – to buy them time before they are arrested, Bachner said.
The process of voting on an indictment is much faster than jury deliberations at trial – which can take days and even weeks – since only 12 of the 23 members of the grand jury need to agree and since the bar for an indictment is much lower than for a conviction.
“You go back to the old saying that ‘a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich,’” Uris said, referencing a famous quote by Sol Wachtler, the former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals.
“It’s a much lower bar to clear so deliberations tend to be a lot quicker,” he said, noting when he was a prosecutor, he once saw a grand jury take less than a minute to deliberate.
But the experts noted that there is no way to say for sure whether the grand jury has already voted on an indictment against Trump and Bragg was just slow walking the paperwork.
“It’s a sealed indictment,” Uris said. “The DA’s office is pretty much prohibited from talking about it. The jurors are prohibited from talking about it. The only person who can talk about it is the defendant.”
Uris predicted the public will first find out after the DA’s office notifies Trump’s attorneys, who could then publicize it.
“None of us really have a true understanding of what’s going on,” Uris added. “The only people who truly know what’s happening is Bragg and a small circle of prosecutors that are working on this case.”
The grand jury has been hearing testimony and seeing evidence related to allegations that Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen paid former porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep her from going public with her claims that she had an affair with Trump.
The payment was made in 2016 in the lead up to the 2016 election.
Prosecutors are reportedly trying to get an indictment on the charge of falsifying business records based on the premise that the payment to Daniels should have been disclosed as a campaign contribution.