What we know about the grand jury in Trump probe: Yahoo News Explains

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has convened a special grand jury to decide whether to indict former President Donald Trump or executives at his company, the Washington Post reported Tuesday afternoon. Vance has been investigating Trump’s business practices before he was president for more than two years. And the impaneling of a grand jury suggests the wide-ranging probe is entering its final stages — and that New York prosecutors believe they have found evidence of a crime. Yahoo News explains what we know about the case so far.

Video transcript

- Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, has convened a new special grand jury that is reported to be considering evidence of possible criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his business. This hints that after more than two years of investigation, New York prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to indict. But it's unclear who, if anyone, could be brought up on criminal charges.

This is just the next step in a long process that likely won't be done any time soon. So what exactly is a grand jury? When a grand jury is called, It's not like the standard jury duty where you sit in front of a judge, hear arguments from both sides, and are sequestered from the public until you reach a verdict.

Instead, a grand jury meets in private with prosecutors to review evidence and hear witness testimony in order to determine whether or not there's anything there. One of the reasons they do this in private is so that witnesses can speak freely without potential harm to their reputations if prosecutors don't move forward with an indictment.

Grand juries are usually only called for a set period of time and don't meet every day. In this case, they'll meet three days a week for about six months and are reported to be hearing evidence in other cases as well.

So what does this mean for Trump? The short answer is we don't know. The criminal probe into the former president and his business is believed to be wide ranging, from alleged tax fraud to hush money payments made to women on his behalf. And it's not clear exactly what this grand jury will be focusing on specifically.

Fraud cases are especially hard to prosecute because they need to prove direct knowledge and intent. Here's how former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman put it on CNN.

- It's a difficult case against Trump. Fraud cases are hard. He has what would be perceived as an advice of counsel defense to some of the fraud charges, and he doesn't email. So we know that there isn't going to be a lot of documentary evidence that demonstrates Donald Trump's knowledge of any misrepresentations to insurance companies, to banks to tax authorities.

- One last thing to note here is that Cyrus Vance is leaving office at the end of the year. So if the grand jury does decide that there's enough evidence to indict, it'll be up to the next district attorney to prosecute.