May 26, 2021

CNN takes a look at the special grand jury just convened to examine the finances of the Trump Organization.

"Joining us now, Elie Honig. What is this special grant jury and what power does it have?" John Berman asked.

"The grand jury is one of the most powerful tools any prosecutor can have. Despite the name, it does not have much in common with a trial jury. One of the things they do have in common, they're both selected randomly from the general public," Honig said.

"Now, this jury will be sitting for six months. That's what makes it a special grand jury. Usually grand juries sit for one month, this one is going to be empaneled for up to six months. It could end earlier than that or the prosecutor could ask for permission to extend beyond that. But that's a good ballpark figure for how long this might take. The grand jury operates in secret. We will not know what's happening in that room.

"There will be no cameras in there. We will not get daily transcripts. The hallmark of the grand jury is secrecy and most importantly, the grand jury has the power to issue subpoenas. Those require people to testify, to turn over documents. It's a very powerful aspect of what the grand jury does. Now, a couple of things about the grand jury. Of course, this grand jury has been empaneled by the Manhattan district attorney, Cy Vance. It is a one-sided presentation. It's only the prosecutor, grand jury, and court reporter. There's no judge. There's no defense lawyer. It's extremely one-sided. You've heard the expression 'the grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.' There's some truth to that.

"Now, in order to indict, you don't need all the grand jurors, right? You need a jury. A trial jury has to be unanimous to convict. All you need is the majority, 12 of the 23 grand jurors, and the standard of proof is way lower, down here as opposed to beyond a reasonable doubt."

"So you have a lower bar to begin with, they're extremely persuadable by the prosecutor to begin with, and you only need a majority, which is why the saying goes, you could indict a ham sandwich. Why would you call a special grand jury?" Berman asked.

"If you wanted a longer-term grand jury that's going to have a lot of information to process and absorb, that would take longer than a week or a day," Honig said.

"What are we looking at?"

"A lot of financial charges. The main gist appears to be on how the Trump Organization valued its assets. The allegation or the belief is at some point, it would deflate the value of the assets to affect the tax bill. At other times, they would allegedly inflate the value of these assets. If they were trying to get a bank loan, they would say, we're solvent, please give us this bank loan.

"The grand jury is also looking at potential tax charges involving Ivanka Trump. There was this very large payment, $747,000 from the Trump Organization to Ivanka Trump as a, quote unquote, consultant. While she worked there, there could be tax implications. Allen Weisselberg is being investigated for possible tax charges as well."

"What evidence are we looking at?" Berman asked.

"Michael Cohen. He has talked to prosecutors. He has tweeted himself to be the star witness, let's see. It's Michael Cohen, let's see if that pans out. We know the D.A. has the tax returns. They went all the way to the Supreme Court to get those tax returns, plus millions of other financial documents. They subpoenaed through another grand jury earlier to obtain information earlier from Deutsche Bank, the lender to the Trump Organization and then this, we don't know," Honig said.

"This is a question mark. Allen Weisselberg. If they can flip him, he's the longtime chief financial officers of the Trump Organization, that's going to be critical. Watch and see if this grand jury subpoenas Allen Weisselberg, then indicts him, see if he flips."

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