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Donald Trump trial: Prosecutors will make history with their opening statements in the financial silence case

Donald Trump trial: Prosecutors will make history with their opening statements in the financial silence case

 


NEW YORK — For the first time in history, prosecutors will present a criminal case against a former U.S. president to a jury Monday as they accuse Donald Trump of a hush money scheme aimed at preventing damaging stories about his personal life is not made public.

A 12-person jury in Manhattan is scheduled to hear opening statements from prosecutors and defense attorneys in the first of four criminal cases against the presumptive Republican nominee that will go to trial.

The statements should give jurors and voters a clearer view of the allegations at the heart of the case, as well as insight into Trump's expected defense.

RELATED: Full jury of 12, 6 alternates seated in Donald Trump's secret trial in New York

The lawyers will also introduce a colorful group of characters expected to testify about the tabloid saga, including a porn actress who claims she had a sexual relationship with Trump and the lawyer who prosecutors say paid her to she remains silent about it.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records and could face up to four years in prison if convicted, although it is unclear whether the judge would seek to put him behind bars. A conviction would not prevent Trump from becoming president again, but because it is a state matter, he would not be able to attempt a pardon if convicted. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Taking place as Trump struggles to win back the White House, the trial will force him to spend his days in a courtroom rather than on the campaign trail. He will have to listen to witnesses recount salacious and potentially unflattering details about his private life.

Trump has nevertheless sought to make his status as a criminal defendant an asset for his campaign, raising funds to alleviate his legal risks and repeatedly railing against a justice system that he has claimed for years to be a weapon against him.

The case is heard by a jury made up of, among others, several lawyers, a sales professional, an investment banker and an English professor.

The case will test jurors' ability to set aside bias, but also Trump's ability to respect court-imposed restrictions, such as the silence order that prohibits him from attacking witnesses. Prosecutors are seeking fines against him for alleged violations of that order.

SEE ALSO: Who are the main players in Donald Trump's secret trial in Manhattan?

The case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg revisits a chapter in Trump's history when his celebrity past collided with his political ambitions and, prosecutors say, he sought to prevent Potentially damaging stories do not surface thanks to discreet money payments.

One of those payments was a $130,000 sum that Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and personal arranger, paid to porn actor Stormy Daniels to prevent her allegations of a sexual relationship with Trump from being made public shortly before. the 2016 elections.

Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of the payments in internal records when his company reimbursed Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2018 and is expected to be a star witness for the prosecution.

Trump has denied having a sexual relationship with Daniels and his lawyers argue that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal fees.

To convict Trump of a crime, prosecutors must show that he not only falsified or caused a false seizure of business records, which would be a misdemeanor, but that he did so to cover up another crime.

RELATED: Here's What We Know About the Jurors Seated in Trump's Secret Criminal Trial

The allegations do not accuse Trump of a blatant abuse of power as in the federal case in Washington accusing him of plotting to overturn the 2020 presidential election, or of flouting national security protocols as in the case federal court in Florida accusing him of hoarding classified documents.

But the New York prosecution has taken on added importance because it may be the only one of the four cases against Trump that goes to trial before the November election. Appeals and legal wrangling delayed the other three cases.

Copyright 2024 by Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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