The Manhattan district attorney’s office has moved to jump-start its criminal investigation into Donald J. Trump, according to people with knowledge of the matter, seeking to breathe new life into an inquiry that once seemed to have reached a dead end.
Under the new district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, the prosecutors have returned to the long-running investigation’s original focus: a hush-money payment to a porn star who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump.
The district attorney’s office first examined the payment to the actress, Stormy Daniels, years ago before changing direction to scrutinize Mr. Trump’s broader business practices. But Mr. Bragg and some of his deputies have recently indicated to associates, supporters and at least one lawyer involved in the matter that they are newly optimistic about building a case against Mr. Trump, the people said.
The renewed scrutiny of the hush money comes amid an intensifying swirl of legal and political drama around Mr. Trump. On Friday, Merrick B. Garland, the U.S. attorney general, appointed a special prosecutor who vowed to proceed quickly with two federal investigations into the former president. It is unclear whether Mr. Bragg or the special counsel will ultimately seek charges against Mr. Trump, who just announced a third presidential run.
For Mr. Bragg, the hush-money developments suggest the first signs of progress since he took office at the beginning of the year, when he balked at indicting Mr. Trump in connection with his business practices.
But in bringing the inquiry full circle to the hush-money payment, Mr. Bragg is focusing on an aspect of the investigation that previously failed to bear fruit.
The idea of building a case around the hush money had resurfaced with such regularity in recent years that prosecutors came to refer to it as the “zombie theory,” an idea that just wouldn’t die, one of the people said. [Continue reading…]