Trump hush money trial

Trump hush money trial: Opening statements and the first witness

Trump hush money trial: Opening statements and the first witness

Prosecutors claim that Trump tampered with the 2016 election on the opening day of his hush money trial.

New York prosecutors said on the first day of Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial that the former president broke the law and corrupted the 2016 election by trying to cover up sexual encounters with a porn star and a Playboy model, while his defence lawyer said he committed no crime.

Jurors in the historic trial also heard briefly from the prosecution’s first witness.

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who prosecutors say participated in a “catch and kill” scheme to suppress unflattering stories about Trump and help him get elected.

In the first-ever trial of a former U.S. president, Trump is charged with falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 to keep quiet about a sexual encounter she says they had 10 years earlier.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies the encounter took place.

Prosecutors portrayed the payment as a criminal effort to deceive voters at a time when Trump was facing other accusations of crude sexual behaviour.

“This was a planned, coordinated, long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election, to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures to silence people who had something bad to say about his behaviour,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo stated. “It was election fraud, pure and simple.”

Takeaways from the Trump hush money trial
Takeaways from the Trump hush money trial

Colangelo promised the jury that they would see a substantial paper trail to support the witness testimony

and that they would hear Trump working out the specifics of the plan in taped discussions.

Trump’s lawyer told the jury that the former president did not commit any crimes and said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg should not have brought the case.

“There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It’s called democracy.

They put something sinister on this idea, as if it’s a crime,” Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said.

Wearing a blue tie and dark blue suit, the Republican presidential candidate watched the court proceedings and occasionally spoke to his lawyer.

A Secret Service agent wearing an earpiece sat directly behind him.

The lawyers made their opening statements in what may be the only one of Trump’s four criminal prosecutions to go to trial before his Nov. 5 election rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

The case is seen by many legal experts as the least consequential of the Trump prosecutions, based on facts that have been public since 2018.

A guilty verdict would not bar him from taking office, but it could hurt his candidacy.

Polling shows half of independent voters and one in four Republicans say they would not vote for Trump,

opens new tab if he is convicted of a crime.

Before proceedings got under way, Trump called on his supporters to peacefully protest nationwide,

but few greeted him when he arrived at the downtown Manhattan courthouse.

Trump blamed security restrictions for the poor turnout, though the surrounding streets were open to the public.

He faces three other criminal indictments stemming from his efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat and his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House in 2021.

Donald has pleaded not guilty in those cases, and he portrays all of them as a broad-based effort by Biden’s Democratic allies to undercut his campaign.

With the 2024 election campaign in full swing, Trump now must juggle courtroom appearances and rallies.

34 criminal counts

Trump's day in court as criminal defendant
Trump’s day in court as criminal defendant

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Prosecutors say he falsified checks and invoices to disguise $420,000 in payments to his personal lawyer Michael Cohen as legal services,

When in fact they were meant to reimburse him for paying off Daniels.

Colangelo said those payments were part of a broader pattern by Trump,

Cohen and Pecker to tamp down other unflattering stories and help him defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

According to prosecutors, Pecker agreed during an August 2015 meeting with Trump and Cohen to act as the campaign’s “eyes and ears” by looking out for negative stories about Trump.

“Pecker was not acting as a publisher, he was acting as a co-conspirator,” Colangelo said.

Pecker has not been charged with a crime.

American Media, which published the National Enquirer, in 2018 admitted that it paid $150,000 to former Playboy magazine model Karen McDougal for rights to her story about a months-long affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007.

American Media said it worked “in concert” with Trump’s campaign, and it never published a story.

The tabloid reached a similar deal to pay $30,000 to a doorman who was seeking to sell a story about Trump allegedly fathering a child out of wedlock, which turned out to be false, according to prosecutors.

Trump has said the payments were personal and did not violate election law. He has also denied the affair with McDougal.

Cohen’s credibility as a witness is likely to be a crucial aspect of the trial, which could last six to eight weeks.

He has pleaded guilty and served prison time on federal campaign-finance charges related to his role in the scheme.

“He has a goal – an obsession – with getting Trump,” Blanche said, adding that Cohen had lied under oath in other cases.

“I submit to you that he cannot be trusted.”

Trump has criticized Cohen and others involved in the case, including prosecutors, Justice Juan Merchan and his daughter.

Merchan has imposed a limited gag order and will consider on Tuesday whether to penalize Trump for violating that order.

On Monday evening, Trump said in an interview to Real America’s Voice that the jury

“was picked so fast” and that the area was mostly Democrat.

Pecker, 72, is also expected to retake the stand on Tuesday.

Trump was thinking about the $175 million bond hearing down the street

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As opening statements got underway in criminal court,

other lawyers for Trump were in a courtroom a block away arguing over the legitimacy of the $175 million bond.

Donald posted to appeal the judgment in his civil fraud trial,

where the former president was found liable for fraudulently inflating his asset values to obtain better loan terms.

Trump attacked Attorney General Letitia James on his way into and out of the courthouse on Monday.

Trump was unable to attend the civil hearing because he must be there every day of the criminal trial.

At the hearing, Trump’s attorneys came to an agreement with the New York attorney general’s office on the terms of that $175 million bond.

James’ team had previously challenged the bond, questioning the financial wherewithal of the underwriter, Knight Specialty Insurance Company.

Trump’s attorneys representing him in the civil matter later stopped by the criminal trial and spoke to cameras in the hallway outside the courtroom where Trump sat at the defence table.

“He should not have two teams of lawyers here today,” Alina Habba said. “He should not even be here today, because he did nothing wrong. It is an epitome of a witch hunt.”

Gag order hearing will lead off court on Tuesday

Judge issues gag order barring Donald Trump from commenting on witnesses, others in hush money case
Judge issues gag order barring Donald Trump from commenting on witnesses, others in hush money case

Before the trial resumes Tuesday, Merchan is holding a hearing on allegations

that Trump violated the judge’s gag order barring discussion of witnesses.

The district attorney’s office asked the judge to fine Trump $1,000 for each of several gag order violations leading up to

and since the trial started.

Trump faces the possibility of being reminded of the threat of imprisonment by

the judge in addition to fines if he continues to disobey the order by prosecutors.

“We think that it is important for the court to remind Trump that he is a criminal defendant,”

prosecutor Chris Conroy said last week. “And like all criminal defendants he’s subject to court supervision.”

Trump’s lawyers have argued that his social media posts do not actually violate the gag order.

Trump attorney Emil Bove argued last week that Cohen had been attacking Trump in “connection to the campaign” and Trump’s responses were related to the campaign.

Trump spoke about Cohen while addressing the cameras after court ended Monday.

“The things he got in trouble for were things that had nothing to do with me. He got in trouble. He went to jail. This has nothing to do with me,” Trump said.

The jury has been instructed to arrive at 11 a.m. ET to begin the second day of the trial.

Merchan said if arguments over the gag order were not finished by then, they would finish another time.

Court is only in session until 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday because of the Passover holiday.


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