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Opening statements and first witness launch secret trial against TrumpExBulletin

Opening statements and first witness launch secret trial against TrumpExBulletin


Former President Donald Trump attends Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday during his trial for allegedly concealing secret money payments related to extramarital affairs. Victor J. Blue/Pool/AFP via Getty Images .

switch captionVictor J.Blue/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump attends Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday during his trial for allegedly concealing secret money payments related to extramarital affairs.

Victor J. Blue/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Shortly before 10 a.m. Monday, a jury of 18 ordinary New Yorkers filed into the Manhattan courtroom where former President Donald Trump sat at the defense table.

“Members of the jury, we are about to proceed to the commencement of the trial of Donald J. Trump,” Judge Juan Merchan said.

As Merchan began explaining to the jury his critical role over the next several weeks, Trump, the defendant, sat alongside his legal team, sometimes looking down and shifting slightly in his chair.

Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records in New York to conceal damaging information to influence the 2016 presidential election. Trump claims the lawsuit itself constitutes “election interference” in because of the way he is disrupting his bid for president in 2024. He has pleaded not guilty and claims he was only paying his lawyer.

Merchan told jurors the burden of proof will fall on prosecutors, who must prove Trump is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Last week, 12 jurors and six alternates were selected to decide the former president's fate. The trial began about a year after a grand jury initially returned the indictment that made it the first against a sitting or former U.S. president.

Jurors also began hearing from the first witness: David Pecker, former CEO of American Media, the publishing company of the National Enquirer magazine.

Pecker, who was on the stand less than half an hour before the first day, around lunchtime, testified about the editorial structure of his magazine and the level of oversight he had over the articles. He also confirmed his phone numbers, which the prosecution said could later be relevant.

Testimony is expected to continue Tuesday. Other prosecution witnesses expected are Michael Cohen, a former Trump fixer, and Keith Davidson, a former lawyer for a Playboy model.

Prosecutor provides lengthy details of alleged scheme

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo delivered the opening statement on behalf of the prosecutor's team, noting that this case involves “criminal conspiracy and cover-up.”

He laid out what has long been Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's argument: He alleges there was a conspiracy created in part by Trump to cover up reports that he had an affair with a celebrity. adult film industry, out of fear that if this information were leaked, it could harm his 2016 presidential election prospects.

There were 34 “falsified” business records, Colangelo said, while detailing how the DA's office believes Trump coordinated with Cohen, his former fixer, and Pecker in August 2015. That led Trump to ignore various flattering stories about him, he said, and also damaging information about his opponents.

Colangelo said that agreement reached in August also resulted in a “catch and kill” plan to uncover these potentially damaging stories as Election Day approached and ensure they were never published.

He said Pecker found potentially damaging information and “killed” it by paying people. The first was Playboy playmate Karen McDougal, who would publicly claim she had an affair with Trump. Trump “desperately” did not want it made public, Colangelo told the jury. The former president has denied having an affair with McDougal.

Three months before Election Day, a payment was made to McDougal, Colangelo said, with the help of Davidson, his attorney. He also told the jury they planned to play a recording of a phone call between Trump and Cohen about how to pay Pecker and obtain the rights for McDougal's story.

Further laying out the timeline, Colangelo noted that the Access Hollywood tape was released a month before the election.

“The campaign went into immediate damage control mode,” Colangelo said, adding that Trump learned the next day that another woman was about to reveal her own alleged sexual relationship with the presidentially nominated adult film star. GOP, Stormy Daniels. Trump also denied the meeting.

A story of infidelity with a porn star would have been damaging to the campaign, Colangelo said, and Trump wanted to “prevent American voters from learning about this information before Election Day.”

Cohen created a shell company to send a $130,000 payment to Daniels, made at Trump's direction and for his benefit and for the specific purpose of preventing negative information that could have cost Trump the election, argued Colangelo.

“It was voter fraud. We'll never know and it doesn't matter if it made a difference to him in the election,” Colangelo said. “You will see in social media posts and speeches at campaign rallies” that Trump was concerned about how this could “harm the reputation of voters and women voters in particular.”

Colangelo foreshadowed that the jury will see text messages between National Enquirer executives asking “what did we do?” They will also see how the payments were calculated and hidden for tax purposes, as well as evidence that “Trump is a frugal businessman… but when it came to repaying Cohen, he didn't negotiate the price down He doubled it, so he could disguise it as income,” Colangelo said.

“There was no service contract, rather it was what they thought was a clever way to reimburse Cohen without making it obvious,” Colangelo said, noting that Cohen submitted 11 paid “dummy invoices.” by checks with “false entries” signed. by Trump himself.

Colangelo also tried to preempt potential criticism of Cohen's testimony, pointing out that the defense risks discrediting him. “Cohen has made mistakes in the past,” he said, adding that testimony from Pecker and Davidson would also corroborate what was said.

“Cut out the noise. Focus on the facts,” he concluded.

Defense establishes its case: Trump did nothing illegal

Trump, who largely appeared to be looking straight ahead or down during the opening of the prosecution, turned toward the jury as his lawyer stood at the lectern.

“President Trump is innocent. Trump has committed no crime,” Todd Blanche said. “He’s also a man, a husband, a father, and just like me.”

From the outset, Blanche told the jury that the story the prosecution had just detailed was not true and that at the end of the trial there would be “a lot of reasonable doubt.”

Blanche argued that the invoices, records and payments were made according to the rules, in part because Cohen took on the role of personal attorney when Trump entered the White House.

He also argued that Trump was simply defending himself against allegations that could harm his family, reputation and brand.

“There is nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It's called democracy,” he said.

Blanche also spent time trying to discredit some of the prosecution's witnesses, primarily Cohen, who has a history of perjury, and Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford, pointing out how she received publicity, pointing out his recent documentary and how Trump won. a defamation lawsuit against her.

“We're New Yorkers. That's why we're here,” Blanche said, reminding the jury that they had promised to put aside Trump's personal thoughts over the past eight years. “And if you do that, there will be a very quick not guilty verdict.”




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