Trump trial live updates: Judge to consider gag order violations before first witness returns to stand

Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial is now well underway with the prosecution and defence teams having presented their opening statements on Monday.

Tabloid media mogul David Pecker, who published The National Enquirer and was part of the “catch-and-kill” scheme at the heart of the case, also began giving testimony and will return to the witness stand on Tuesday.

Judge Juan Merchan will also rule today on complaints raised by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg’s team about numerous instances of Mr Trump allegedly violating the terms of his gag order by posting bitterly about the case and its key participants on his Truth Social platform.

The defendant continued to whine on social media on Monday evening, calling Mr Bragg “an election denier” as he otherwise looked ahead to the Supreme Court’s hearding on his presidential immunity defence against prosecution, which will take place on Thursday.

Elsewhere on the legal front, an agreement has been reached over Mr Trump’s $175m bond to appeal the civil fraud trial ruling against him and witness statements in the classified documents case have been made public.

Alex Woodward is providing live updates from the courthouse in Lower Manhattan throughout the trial.

Key Points

Truth Social: Trump poses grandiose victim narrative videos, calls Bragg ‘election denier’ and stews on immunity

08:47 , Joe Sommerlad

The former president turned criminal defendant was busy on social media last night, posting a series of preposterous, self-pitying campaign videos about his enemies trying to “tear him down”, at least one of which bordered on the downright irresponsible as he accused the federal government of trying to silence him because he stands up for the electorate.

He also called DA Bragg an “election denier”, just in time for Judge Merchan’s hearing on whether his social media output amounted to violations of his gag order in the hush money trial.

Trump otherwise seemed preoccupied by the Supreme Court’s hearing on his spurious “presidential immunity defence” on Thursday, claiming that, without it, presidents would be vulnerable to extortion and blackmail threats (didn’t he try to extort Volodymyr Zelensky??)

He also took time to reassure the kids that losing TikTok would be Joe Biden’s fault, denounce the protests at Columbia University and wish everyone a happy Passover!

Two years in prison for man who attacked police with Confederate flag on Jan 6

08:15 , AP

A Kentucky man who stormed the U.S. Capitol while carrying a Confederate battle flag was sentenced on Monday to more than two years in prison for pepper spraying two police officers in the face, partially blinding them for hours during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.

Isreal Easterday was 19 years old when he joined a mob of Donald Trump supporters in invading the Capitol. He used pepper spray to assault two Capitol police officers who were separately guarding the East Rotunda Doors.

Chief Judge James Boasberg cited Easterday’s youth as a reason for handing down a prison term — two years and six months — that was over five times lower than the Justice Department’s initial sentencing recommendation.

The judge said Easterday, who was homeschooled by his mother while living on a family farm, “may not have fully appreciated what was going on there” at the Capitol on Jan. 6 or recognized that the Confederate flag is a “symbol of rebellion.”

Continue reading the full article...

Trump campaign funds being decimated by legal fees

06:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump’s legal fees are taking a chunk out of his campaign funds – with one of the groups that has underwritten many of those costs having spent nearly $3.7m last month.

Figures released by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) show this is what the Save America political action committee (PAC) spent in March, amounting to nearly three in every four dollars it raised during the same period.

Martha McHardy takes a look at the numbers:

Trump’s legal fees eat into his campaign funds as millions more drained from coffers

Coming up: Supreme Court to decide whether Trump immune from federal prosecution

04:45 , AP

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments this week with profound legal and political consequences: whether former President Donald Trump is immune from prosecution in a federal case charging him with plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

In addition to establishing a potentially historic ruling about the scope of presidential power, the court’s decision — whenever it comes — will undoubtedly go a long way in determining a trial date for Trump in one of the four criminal prosecutions that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee faces.

A quick decision in the Justice Department’s favor could conceivably put the case on track for trial this fall. But if the court takes until late June to resolve the question, then the likelihood rises substantially that the November presidential election will happen without a jury ever being asked to decide whether Trump is criminally responsible for efforts to undo an election he lost in the weeks leading up to the violent Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol.

Here’s a look at what’s ahead:

Supreme Court to decide whether Trump immune from federal prosecution. What’s next?

Poll: RFK Jr’s presidential bid saps more support from Trump than Biden

03:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Anti-vaccine activist and conspiracy theorist Robert F Kennedy Jr’s long-shot presidential bid appears to be drawing more support from former president Donald Trump than President Joe Biden, according to a new poll.

The survey of 1,000 registered voters, conducted between 12-15 April by NBC News, revealed that Mr Biden is trailing Mr Trump by two percentage points in a hypothetical two-way race, 46 per cent to 44 per cent.

However, when third-party and independent candidates are added to the mix, Mr Biden emerges with a two-point advantage over Mr Trump - 39 per cent to 37 per cent.

Andrew Feinberg reports:

RFK Jr saps more support from Trump than Biden, new poll finds

What Taylor Swift’s home county in Pennsylvania explains about the 2024 election

02:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Eric Garcia writes:

Few people generate as many headlines as Taylor Swift. Her relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and subsequent appearances at his games, including the Super Bowl, created bad blood among many right-wingers. Meanwhile, Democrats hope that an endorsement of Joe Biden would make him untouchable.

But while the lavender haze of the primaries wears off, only a handful of states remain, including Swift’s home state of Pennsylvania. Particularly, her home county of Berks County explains plenty about the 2024 election. Here’s how Berks County will drop everything now for Trump or speak now for Biden (and bonus points for anyone who finds all the hidden references).

Read on...

What Taylor Swift’s home county in Pennsylvania explains about the 2024 election

Witness in Trump’s classified documents case asked FBI not to record interview

01:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Andrew Feinberg reports:

A witness who spoke to federal investigators about Donald Trump was so afraid of repercussions for cooperating with the FBI that he asked agents not to record his voluntary interview.

The FBI officials were speaking to the witness — whose name is redacted in documents — as part of their probe into how documents with classification markings ended up at the former president’s Palm Beach, Florida home long after the end of his term in office.

Continue reading...

Witness in classified Trump documents asked FBI not to record his specific interview

Alina Habba fumes civil fraud hearing ‘wasted time and money’ after bond deal reached

Tuesday 23 April 2024 00:00 , Oliver O'Connell

After weeks of back-and-forth between Donald Trump’s legal team and the New York Attorney General’s Office over the $175m bond in his civil fraud ruling, the two sides have now agreed to allow the bond to be backed by a California-based company so long as the collateral remains in cash, among other stipulations.

On Monday, attorneys for Mr Trump, including Alina Habba, and lawyers for Letitia James’s office met for a court hearing on the bond dispute, approximately 500 feet from the Manhattan courtroom where opening arguments began in Mr Trump’s first criminal trial.

Following the hearing, Ms Habba fumed that it was “wasted time” and a waste of taxpayer dollars as she accused Ms James of waging unnecessary complaints about the bond and tried to draw comparisons with his criminal case.

Ariana Baio reports:

Trump reaches deal with New York AG over multi-million dollar civil fraud bond

Key takeaways from opening statements in Trump’s hush money trial

Monday 22 April 2024 23:15 , Oliver O'Connell

It’s the case that many thought might never make it to trial, and yet at 9.30am ET on Monday 22 April, twelve jurors, six alternates, two teams of attorneys, one former president, and the world’s press were in attendance as Judge Juan Merchan called the court to order.

Here’s what you need to know about what happened in court today:

Key takeaways from opening statements in Trump’s hush money trial

Trump gripes about not being able to attend Supreme Court immunity arguments

Monday 22 April 2024 22:58 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump is having to face the realities of being on trial for criminal charges — he has to be in court every day it is in session. That includes missing oral arguments in the Supreme Court that will greatly impact his other criminal cases...

The former president wrote on Truth Social this afternoon:

The Supreme Court will address the historic question of Presidential Immunity on Thursday, but unfortunately, I will not be able to attend. The Highly Conflicted Judge in the Manhattan D.A. “case” (Soros-backed Alvin Bragg) has prohibited me from attending. Without Presidential Immunity, the President cannot function, as his Political Opponents will blackmail and extort him with the threat of wrongful prosecution at every turn. We look forward to presenting our case to the Supreme Court.

He has been thinking about presidential immunity a lot, spending much of Saturday posting about it too.

Mr Trump also wrote the following this afternoon:

Without Immunity, the Presidency, as we know it, will no longer exist. Many actions for the benefit of our Country will not be taken. This is in no way what the Founders had in mind. Legal Experts and Scholars have stated that the President must have Full Presidential Immunity. A President must be free to make proper decisions. His mind must be clear, and he must not be guided by fear of retribution!

And:

Without Presidential Immunity, a President will not be able to properly function, or make decisions, in the best interest of the United States of America. Presidents will always be concerned, and even paralyzed, by the prospect of wrongful prosecution and retaliation, after they leave office. This could actually lead to extortion and blackmail of a President. The other side would say, “If you don’t do something, just the way we want it, we are going to go after you when you leave office, or perhaps even sooner.” A President has to be free to determine what is right for our Country, with no undue pressure!

Here’s what special counsel Jack Smith has to say about the subject:

Jack Smith urges Supreme Court to reject Trump’s ‘unprecedented’ immunity claim

Monday 22 April 2024 22:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Watch Trump response as he’s quizzed on Melania whereabouts at criminal trial

Trump’s legal fees eat into his campaign funds

Monday 22 April 2024 22:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump’s legal fees are taking a chunk out of his campaign funds – with one of the groups that has underwritten many of those costs having spent nearly $3.7m last month.

Figures released by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) show this is what the Save America political action committee (PAC) spent in March, amounting to nearly three in every four dollars it raised during the same period.

Martha McHardy has the details:

Trump’s legal fees eat into his campaign funds as millions more drained from coffers

Inside Trump’s ‘calendar of chaos’

Monday 22 April 2024 21:30 , Oliver O'Connell

In a typical presidential election year, candidates will spend the 11 months leading up to election day shaking hands and kissing babies at rallies as the primaries unfold.

But nothing is typical when it comes to Donald Trump.

Instead, the ex-president will be forced to juggle his campaign for the White House while also defending himself in federal and state courts in four different cases that have hearings and trial dates scattered throughout 2024.

Ariana Baio takes us through Trump’s calendar of chaos:

How Trump’s trial dates and the 2024 election overlap

Analysis: Three reasons Mike Johnson’s job is safe — and one reason it might not be

Monday 22 April 2024 21:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Eric Garcia writes:

And just like that, after months of dragged out negotiations and false starts, the House of Representatives passed legislation to assist Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

The vote showed a stunning about-face for House Speaker Mike Johnson, who as a backbencher opposed aid to Ukraine. Since then, he’s been hailed for standing up to his party — even though he only did so after he’d exhausted all other options. (Readers of Inside Washington may remember I called Johnson a coward a few months ago for refusing to put the Ukraine bill to the floor).

But the vote means Johnson has to consider whether Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the right-wing conspiracy theorist and acolyte of Donald Trump, will carry through with her threats and actually topple him from his job.

Continue reading...

Three reasons Mike Johnson’s job is safe — and one reason it might not be

What is the Trump defence strategy?

Monday 22 April 2024 20:40 , Oliver O'Connell

A member of Donald Trump’s legal team divulged the defence’s plan to “focus on the facts” to show that the former president did nothing wrong, one day before the opening arguments are set to begin in the landmark hush money trial.

Mr Trump is now standing criminal trial — the first president or ex-president ever to do so — over 34 counts of falsifying business records related to payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election in exchange for her silence over an alleged affair. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Kelly Rissman reports:

Trump team sets out its strategy on eve of opening statements in hush money trial

Watch: Trump again attacks key witness Cohen in defiance of gag order

Monday 22 April 2024 20:20 , Oliver O'Connell

With less than 24 hours before Judge Juan Merchan holds a contempt of court hearing and rules on gag order violations by Donald Trump, the former president was at it again in the hallway immediately outside the courtroom, attacking key witness Michael Cohen.

Trump attacks Biden with claim he is trying to ‘ban TikTok' — which he repeatedly tried and failed to do

Monday 22 April 2024 20:10 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump is trying to blame President Joe Biden for the bill passed by the House of Representatives on Saturday that wants the Chinese-owned parent of TikTok to sell the app.

The former president is attempting to use the false story as a pitch to young voters who he is hoping won’t remember that he tried to ban or force the sale of TikTok repeatedly when he was president – including announcing a ban to reporters on Air Force One in July 2020.

John Bresnahan of Punchbowl News notes that Mr Trump reversed his position on the app after a recent meeting with GOP mega-donor Jeff Yass, who owns a multi-billion dollar stake in the company.

New Pearl Jam song is about Donald Trump ‘playing the victim’

Monday 22 April 2024 20:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Eddie Vedder has revealed that Pearl Jam’s new song “Wreckage” was inspired by former US president Donald Trump.

“Wreckage” appears on Dark Matter, the Seattle band’s twelfth album, which was released on Friday (19 April).

Singer-songwriter Vedder, 59, told The Times that the song represents an appeal for unity.

Kevin E G Perry has the story:

Eddie Vedder says new Pearl Jam song is about Donald Trump ‘playing the victim’

Watch: Biden campaign and White House ‘well-served by being hands-off’ on Trump trial

Monday 22 April 2024 19:40 , Oliver O'Connell

Melania Trump selling Mother’s Day necklace for $245

Monday 22 April 2024 19:20 , Oliver O'Connell

Former US first lady Melania Trump has launched a new customisable Mother’s Day necklace for sale on her personal website as her husband Donald Trump continues to fight numerous legal cases on several fronts and face ever-steeper lawyers’ bills.

Ms Trump’s new necklace, named “Her Love & Gratitude”, retails for a pricey $245, is made from gold vermeil and features a flower pendant with heart-shaped petals and adjustable 16-18 inch chain and can be engraved with names, initials or meaningful dates, according to her website.

Joe Sommerlad has the details...

Melania Trump selling Mother’s Day necklace for $245 as husband’s legal fees mount

This morning in court - in sketches

Monday 22 April 2024 19:09 , Oliver O'Connell

No cameras in court, no problem... Here’s how courtroom sketch artists captured today’s historic trial of former president Donald Trump.

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo makes opening statements as former President Donald Trump watches with his attorney Todd Blanche before Justice Juan Merchan. Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg is in the foreground. (REUTERS)
Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo makes opening statements as former President Donald Trump watches with his attorney Todd Blanche before Justice Juan Merchan. Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg is in the foreground. (REUTERS)
Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker speaks from the witness stand (REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg)
Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker speaks from the witness stand (REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg)

Civil fraud trial: Trump reaches deal with New York AG Letitia James over bond

Monday 22 April 2024 19:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Ariana Baio reports:

After weeks of back-and-forth between Donald Trump’s legal team and the New York Attorney General’s Office over the $175 million bond in his civil fraud ruling, the two sides have agreed to allow the bond to be backed by a California-based company so long as it the collateral remains in cash, among other stipulations.

On Monday, attorneys for Mr Trump and Letitia James’ office met for a hearing on the bond dispute, approximately 500 feet from where opening arguments began in Mr Trump’s first criminal trial.

The dispute centered around the underwriter: Knight Specialty Insurance Company (KSIC) a California-based company that gave Mr Trump an 11th-hour lifeline. The company is part of the Knight Insurance Group, chaired by billionaire Don Hankey.

Ms James’ office raised concerns over the details of the bond, saying the company should be under full control of the collateral put by Mr Trump and that KSIC was not authorized to write business in New York.

Continue reading...

Trump reaches deal with New York AG over multi-million dollar civil fraud bond

‘It was election fraud. Pure and simple’: Trump trial hears 2016 scheme in opening statements

Monday 22 April 2024 18:40 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Woodward reports from the courthouse in Lower Manhattan:

In their opening arguments to jurors, Manhattan prosecutors outlined Donald Trump’s alleged criminal conspiracy to influence the 2016 presidential election by paying off publishers to bury compromising stories.

“This case is about a criminal conspiracy and a cover up,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo told jurors on Monday.

“The defendant Donald Trump orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election. Then he covered up that criminal conspiracy by lying in his business records, over and over and over again,” he said.

Continue reading...

Trump jurors hear 2016 scheme: ‘It was election fraud. Pure and simple’

Watch: Trump is ‘annoyed, resigned, maybe angry’ according to Rachel Maddow

Monday 22 April 2024 18:31 , Oliver O'Connell

RFK Jr sapping more support from Trump than Biden, poll finds

Monday 22 April 2024 18:20 , Oliver O'Connell

Andrew Feinberg reports:

Anti-vaccine activist and conspiracy theorist Robert F Kennedy Jr’s long-shot presidential bid appears to be drawing more support from former president Donald Trump than President Joe Biden, according to a new poll.

The survey of 1,000 registered voters, conducted between 12-15 April by NBC News, revealed that Mr Biden is trailing Mr Trump by two percentage points in a hypothetical two-way race, 46 per cent to 44 per cent.

However, when third-party and independent candidates are added to the mix, Mr Biden emerges with a two-point advantage over Mr Trump - 39 per cent to 37 per cent.

Continue reading...

RFK Jr saps more support from Trump than Biden, new poll finds

Trump delivers usual list of grievances outside courtroom

Monday 22 April 2024 18:05 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump spoke at the media as he left the courtroom and delivered the latest remix of his usual list of grievances, heavily weighted toward the civil fraud trial (in which there was a development today regarding the appeal bond)

He also argued that he should be out on the campaign trail, making an odd claim that “people” came up to him in court to say they couldn’t believe he was indicted in this case.

The former president appears to want to frame this as some kind of bookkeeping error of which he was completely unaware. He also made a point of saying that they didn’t claim the payment to Cohen as a tax deduction, which appears to be evidence of more of an attempt to not leave a paper trail...

Mr Trump yet again baselessly accused President Joe Biden of orchestrating all of the civil and criminal cases against him. That is not true.

Meanwhile, in another court...

Monday 22 April 2024 17:50 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump has reached a deal with New York Attorney General Letitia James over his multi-million dollar civil fraud bond.

Ariana Baio reports:

After weeks of back-and-forth between Donald Trump’s legal team and the New York Attorney General’s Office over the $175m bond in his civil fraud ruling, the two sides have agreed to allow the bond to be backed by a California-based company so long as it the collateral remains in cash, among other stipulations.

On Monday, attorneys for Mr Trump and Letitia James’ office met for a hearing on the bond dispute, approximately 500 feet from where opening arguments began in Mr Trump’s first criminal trial.

The dispute centered around the underwriter: Knight Specialty Insurance Company (KSIC) a California-based company that gave Mr Trump an 11th-hour lifeline. The company is part of the Knight Insurance Group, chaired by billionaire Don Hankey.

Ms James’ office raised concerns over the details of the bond, saying the company should be under full control of the collateral put by Mr Trump and that KSIC was not authorized to write business in New York.

KSCI disagreed, claiming in a filing that they could because it was backed in a Charles Schwab account pledged to them.

After a relatively brief hearing on Monday, lawyers for Mr Trump and Ms James’ office came to an agreement that would keep the $175m in collateral in cash, have KSCI maintain control of it and KSCI will designate an agent to accept legal services on their behalf in New York.

Alina Habba: Trump trials are ‘disgrace to the American judicial system'

Monday 22 April 2024 17:35 , Oliver O'Connell

Alina Habba (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Alina Habba (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

In the hallway outside the courtroom, Trump legal spokesperson Alina Habba called Trump’s trials a “disgrace to the American judicial system”.

She didn’t take questions and was flanked by Trump lawyers Christopher Kise and Clifford Robert.

“The fact that we have two courts not one, criminal and civil, being used against one man because they cannot beat him in the polls is a disgrace to the American judicial system. You should not have two teams of lawyers here today. You should not even be here today, because you didn’t know is the epitome of a witch hunt,” she said.

And that’s it for today as court recesses

Monday 22 April 2024 17:29 , Oliver O'Connell

Judge Merchan: “Jurors, we’re going to call it a day.”

Court will resume at 11am tomorrow for three hours.

The early break is for a juror’s dentist appointment and to observe the Passover holiday.

In addition at 9.30am there will be a hearing on Trump’s gag order violations. If that is not over by 11am they will pause and pick it up again later, Alex Woodward reports from court.

Before the jury was sent out, Pecker said he is no longer speaking with Howard, who he believes has a spinal condition and lives in Australia and thus can’t travel

With the jury out of the room, Trump attorney Emil Bove now tells the judge that they “objected to some testimony from Mr Pecker about the whereabouts of Mr Howard”.

“It was hearsay, he does not have firsthand knowledge and it’s also not relevant,” he said.

Merchan notes the objection.

Monday 22 April 2024 17:25 , Alex Woodward

Trump is leaning forward on the defence table, watching Pecker’s testimony.

His face is slightly scrunched in what could be described as a “listening” face.

Pecker affirms that he is testifying under subpoena, and his attorney is in court with him.

He was asked to remember a series of phone numbers, including a mobile phone from the time he was at AMI.

He couldn’t remember the last four digits exactly, so he blurted out the whole seven digits. “You gave us more than the last four,” Steinglass says, chuckling.

ADA Steinglass is asking about Dylan Howard, The National Enquirer’s former editor-in-chief.

“Is it fair to say Dylan Howard ran the network of sources” for AMI’s brands, Steinglass asks.

Pecker says yes. He also confirms that Howard ran “juicy” stories by him

Pecker has a relatively soft, low voice, which has been interrupted a couple of times by massive bursts of laughter that made reporters in the overflow laugh.

Also, Pecker confirmed he had two email addresses while at AMI, one for sensitive messages that he didn’t want his assistant to see

Monday 22 April 2024 17:15 , Oliver O'Connell

Pecker explains his past job as President, Chairman, and CEO of AMI.

In addition to The National Enquirer, AMI also published other celebrity tabloids including Star, Life & Style, and The Globe.

Pecker says he had the final say on what got published with regard to the celebrity tabloid side of the business.

Alex Woodward reports:

Pecker describes AMI’s “checkbook journalism.”

“I gave a number to the editors that they could not spend more than $10,000 to investigate, produce or publish a story,” he said.

Anything above that would have to be “vetted” for approval.

Profile: David Pecker - first witness for the prosecution

Monday 22 April 2024 17:11 , Oliver O'Connell

David Pecker, 72, is the former CEO of AMI and publisher of The National Enquirer who agreed to assist Mr Trump and Cohen in carrying out a catch-and-kill scheme ahead of the 2016 presidential election in order to influence Mr Trump’s chances of winning the presidency.

A longtime ally of Mr Trump, Mr Pecker assisted in facilitating payments from AMI to a former Trump Tower doorman and to a second woman who allegedly had an affair with Mr Trump to maintain their silence on negative stories.

Mr Pecker was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for information about Mr Cohen.

Court resumes, David Pecker called to stand

Monday 22 April 2024 17:07 , Oliver O'Connell

Court has resumed after a short break.

AMI founder and the publisher of The National Enquirer David Pecker has been called to the stand and sworn in.

With court ending early today at 12.30pm for a juror dentist appointment and to observe the Passover holiday, we likely won’t get in to much detail.

Alex Woodward reports from court:

Pecker, with a gray mustache and cascading puff of grey and white hair, is wearing a dark grey suit. He’s smiled as he took a seat.

Trump previously admitted he repaid Cohen for Daniels settlement

Monday 22 April 2024 16:56 , Oliver O'Connell

MSNBC legal correspondent Lisa Rubin notes that Donald Trump has previously admitted he repaid Michael Cohen for the Stormy Daniels settlement.

But in his opening statement, Mr Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche argued that the payment to Cohen couldn’t possibly be for that purpose...

Opening statements conclude

Monday 22 April 2024 16:51 , Alex Woodward

Blanche tells jurors to “use your common sense. We’re New Yorkers. It’s why we’re here.”

He reminds them that they pledged to remain fair and impartial and set aside any of their feelings about Trump to hear the case against him.

“We trust you to do that. We do. We trust that you’re going to decide this case based upon the evidence you hear in this courtroom, and nothing else,” he says. “If you do that, there will be a very swift – very swift – not guilty verdict.”

The court is now on a 10-minute break.

Monday 22 April 2024 16:48 , Alex Woodward

Stormy Daniels “doesn’t have any idea” or “know anything” about the invoices, checks and ledger notes in the indictment, according to Blanche.

“Her testimony, while salacious, does not matter,” he says.

Judge sustains two objections from prosecutors

Monday 22 April 2024 16:46 , Oliver O'Connell

Judge Juan Merchan has sustained two objections from the prosecution team during the defence’s opening statement.

Lawyers were called up to the bench twice.

Objections are rare in opening statements but can occur when things drift into argument.

Speaking on CNN, legal expert Elie Honig noted this may also be an attempt to establish discipline early on in proceedings and not let things slide.

Monday 22 April 2024 16:39 , Alex Woodward

Blanche is laying out how the defence plans to undermine Cohen, who is “obsessed” with Trump, he says. “He rants and raves about President Trump,” he says.

“He has talked extensively about his desire to see President Trump go to prison … He cannot be trusted.”

Monday 22 April 2024 16:31 , Alex Woodward

“I have a spoiler alert: There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It’s called democracy,” says Blanche.

Monday 22 April 2024 16:26 , Alex Woodward

The 2017 payments to Michael Cohen were merely for payments for the retainer agreement for legal services rendered, according to Blanche.

“What on earth is a crime? What is a crime about what I just described?” Blanche says.

The 34 counts “are really just 34 pieces of paper,” including invoices, checks, and ledger notation from the invoice that said “for retainer agreement for legal services,” he says. Trump ultimately paid Cohen $420,000, not only the $130,000 that was paid to Stormy Daniels.

“None of this was a crime,” Blanche adds. “You just heard the People’s story … that Michael Cohen was trying to cover up the payback of this $130,000 agreement … But think for a moment about what the People just showed you. … Would a frugal businessman, a man who pinches pennies, repay a $130,000 debt to the tune of $420,000?

Defence begins opening statement

Monday 22 April 2024 16:19 , Alex Woodward

Donald Trump’s defence attorney Todd Blanche begins to present his opening statement.

“President Trump is innocent. President Trump did not commit any crimes. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office should have never brought this case.”

Blanche says the defence will “refer to him as President Trump.”

“This is a title he has earned,” he says. “We will call him President Trump out of respect for the office he held … But he’s not just our former president, he’s not just Donald Trump that you’ve seen on TV or read about or seen photos of. He’s also a man, he’s a husband, he’s a father. And just like me.”

“The story you just heard you will learn is not true, and at the end of this trial, there will be plenty of reasonable doubt.”

Monday 22 April 2024 16:16 , Alex Woodward

Colangelo to jurors: “Tune out of the noise. Focus on the facts. Focus on the logical inferences that follow from those facts. Focus on the evidence, listen to the testimony, read the documents, emails, text messages, bank statements, handwritten notes, all of it.”

After the trial, when prosecutors return to the jurors for closing arguments after reviewing all of that evidence, all of it “inescapably leads to only one conclusion: Donald Trump is guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree.”

‘It was election fraud. Pure and simple’

Monday 22 April 2024 16:15 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Woodward reports from the courthouse:

In their opening arguments to jurors, Manhattan prosecutors outlined Donald Trump’s alleged criminal conspiracy to influence the 2016 presidential election by paying off publishers to bury compromising stories.

“This case is about a criminal conspiracy and a cover up,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo told jurors on Monday.

“The defendant Donald Trump orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election. Then he covered up that criminal conspiracy by lying in his business records, over and over and over again,” he said.

Continue reading...

Trump jurors hear 2016 scheme: ‘It was election fraud. Pure and simple’

Monday 22 April 2024 16:13 , Oliver O'Connell

After the Access Hollywood tape was published, AMI told Cohen that Stormy Daniels' lawyer Keith Davidson had another story about sexual infidelity, with a porn star. At Trump's direction, Cohen arranged to buy the story.

Trump told Cohen to delay until after the election, and he tried until it was eventually arranged that Cohen would pay Daniels $130,000 through a shell company called Essential Consultants LLC. Cohen took out a home equity loan to make the payment.

This was to influence the election. This was a conspiracy. It was election fraud, pure and simple.

Trump was concerned.

On Election Night, Keith Davidson texted the National Enquirer's Dylan Howard and asked, What have we done? Trump invited Pecker to the White House, to thank him.

In January 2017, before Trump took office, Cohen met with Allen Weisselberg, CFO of the Trump Organization. In arranging repayment, they couldn't admit the money was for a porn star payoff. They doubled the amount so Cohen to pay taxes on it and added another $60,000 as a year-end bonus.

Weisselberg wrote it all down and Trump approved it.

Monday 22 April 2024 16:06 , Alex Woodward

Trump is described as a “frugal” man who was “pinching pennies.” Evidence at trial will show that, Colangelo says.

Monday 22 April 2024 15:59 , Alex Woodward

Colangelo says: “No politician wants bad press. But the evidence at trial will show that this was not spin, or communications strategy. This was a planned, coordinated, long-running conspiracy … It was election fraud. Pure and simple.”

Trump has largely been facing forward. Colangelo is speaking at a podium to Trump’s right, slightly behind him.

Monday 22 April 2024 15:54 , Alex Woodward

Karen McDougal meanwhile was offered $150,000 for the “limited life rights to the story of her affair … but the real reason … was to make sure she did not publicise details of her affair of Trump before the 2016 election,” Colangelo says.

He says that Pecker will testify that $150,000 was way more than AMI would normally pay for that kind of story.

Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump in September 2016 — “You’ll get a chance to hear that conversation in this trial,” Colangelo says — on which Cohen said he spoke to then Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg about how to set that up.

“You’ll hear [Trump] ask Cohen, ‘What do we have to pay for this? 150?’” he said. “You’ll hear in his own voice suggest paying in cash.”

AMI then agreed to sell the rights to a shell company set up by Cohen, giving Trump the rights to the McDougal story. Jurors will be shown a “fake” invoice billing the shell company for so-called “advisory” services, and that Cohen, Pecker and Trump would not appear in the transaction. Pecker then told Cohen the deal was off, and that AMI would instead eat the cost.

Jurors just heard Colangelo quote from the Access Hollywood tape, which gives context to the campaign going into “damage control mode” when it learned of the Stormy Daniels story

Monday 22 April 2024 15:45 , Alex Woodward

Three catch-and-kill deals stem from the Trump Tower agreement and lay the foundation for the case: The doorman, Karen McDougal, and Stormy Daniels.

According to Colangelo, the doorman’s story — which shows Cohen actively colluding in a catch-and-kill scheme with a media enterprise” — was ultimately bunk, but Cohen told Pecker not to release him from his NDA until after the election.

Pecker then “deliberately delayed” the release of his NDA, Colangelo says.

Monday 22 April 2024 15:41 , Alex Woodward

“The core of the conspiracy was David Pecker’s agreement to act as eyes and ears of the campaign,” Colangelo says.

He outlines the 2015 Trump Tower catch-and-kill scheme at the heart of the case, in which a publisher “buys a story, demands a source sign a non-disclosure agreement, then declines to publish” – in this case, to support Trump.

“It’s a way of buying damaging information, not to publish it, but to hide it, make it go away,” he says.

Monday 22 April 2024 15:37 , Alex Woodward

Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, and AMI’s David Pecker “conspired to influence the 2016 presidential election” by conceiving of the catch-and-kill scheme, Colangelo says.

Opening statements get underway

Monday 22 April 2024 15:32 , Oliver O'Connell

Opening statements are now underway with prosecution attorney Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo beginning.

“This case is about a criminal conspiracy – and a cover-up. The defendant Donald Trump orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election. Then he covered up that criminal conspiracy by lying in his business records, over and over and over again.”

No sign of Trump family in court

Monday 22 April 2024 15:29 , Oliver O'Connell

There do not appear to be any of the Trump family in court today to support Donald as the historic trial begins.

Lawyers smile as judge notes difference between court and fictitious TV trials

Monday 22 April 2024 15:24 , Oliver O'Connell

While instructing the jury, Judge Merchan says lawyers are not permitted to make any comments on the testimony of witnesses.

“That happens on TV and in the movies, that does not happen in real trials,” he says.

Both prosecutors and Mr Trump’s attorneys smiled at the comment.

Prosecutors can confront Trump about Carroll defamation verdict and fraud ruling if he testifies

Monday 22 April 2024 15:16 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Woodward reports from the courtroom:

Manhattan prosecutors can question Donald Trump about a blockbuster fraud ruling, gag order violations and defamation verdicts if he chooses to testify in his hush money trial.

Before opening arguments in the historic trial on Monday morning, New York Justice Juan Merchan largely granted a request from the office of the Manhattan District Attorney to introduce lines of questioning around prior court rulings finding the former president liable for fraud and defamation.

Judge Merchan also will allow prosecutors to bring up his repeat violations of a gag order in a civil trial targeting allegations of fraud in his real estate empire.

Continue reading...

Prosecutors can confront Trump about defamation and fraud ruling if he testifies

Judge gives jury instructions

Monday 22 April 2024 15:12 , Oliver O'Connell

Judge Juan Merchan is giving the jury their instructions, including the basic principles of law and evidence, and a reminder that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty.

The prosecution bears the burden of proof and must show it beyond a reasonable doubt — if they satisfy that, you must find the defendant guilty, Merchan says.

That decision must not be based on speculation, bias, or prejudice.

Judge rules prosecutors can introduce some past cases if Trump testifies

Monday 22 April 2024 14:59 , Oliver O'Connell

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Alex Woodward reports from the courtroom:

Judge Juan Merchan has ruled that prosecutors may introduce the following past cases and judgments on cross-examination if Donald Trump testifies:

  1. Judge Arthur Engoron’s judgment in the civil fraud trial

  2. The fraud trial’s gag order violation

  3. The fraud trial’s second gag order violation

  4. The E Jean Carroll defamation verdicts

The jury is now entering the courtroom.

Trump an his surrogates claim he would be out campaigning — is that true?

Monday 22 April 2024 14:56 , Oliver O'Connell

Watch: Trump rages about bond in civil fraud case on way into first criminal trial

Monday 22 April 2024 14:52 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump appeared fixated on the bond he posted for his civil fraud trial ruling as he was on the way into the courtroom for his first criminal trial.

New York Attorney General Letitia James says the bond should be voided.

Here’s what the former president had to say:

Mr Trump seemed to remember that he got into trouble a few times during that trial and backed off from naming the “crazed judge” — we all know he is referring to Judge Arthur Engoron.

Concerned juror will remain on case

Monday 22 April 2024 14:45 , Oliver O’Connell

Alex Woodward reports from the courtroom for The Independent:

Juror 9 will remain on the case after speaking with Judge Juan Merchan and prosecution and defence lawyers.

“So that’s not going to be the issue,” Merchan says.

The prosecution’s opening statement will be 40 minutes, and the defence statement will take 25 minutes.

Some housekeeping matters will be dealt with first.

First, on a defence request for clarification on the Access Hollywood tape.

“I don’t really see the confusion,” Merchan says. “At this point, I don’t really see any reason why a transcript that accurately summarises what was on the tape can’t be submitted into evidence.”

First picture of Trump at defence table

Monday 22 April 2024 14:42 , Oliver O'Connell

Here’s Donald Trump seated at the defence table giving his courtroom pose.

Former president Donald Trump seated at the defence table awaiting opening statements in his hush money trial (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Former president Donald Trump seated at the defence table awaiting opening statements in his hush money trial (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Juror expressing concern about media attention

Monday 22 April 2024 14:40 , Oliver O'Connell

A juror has expressed concern about media attention in the case and will speak with the judge. Lawyers have gone into a side room to join them.

CNN reports that the day will only run until 12.30pm as an alternate has a dentist appointment.

Donald Trump is seated at the defence table looking straight ahead.

Trump continues to baselessly claim Biden behind criminal cases against him

Monday 22 April 2024 14:37 , Oliver O'Connell

President Joe Biden has no jurisdiction or influence over criminal indictments brought against Mr Trump at the local or state level (Manhattan and Georgia).

At the federal level, the Department of Justice handed its two investigations (into the classified documents in Florida and the events leading up to January 6 in Washington, DC) over to Special Counsel Jack Smith for the very purpose of avoiding a conflict of interest.

Further, all four Trump criminal cases were assessed by members of the public in respective grand juries who recommended that prosecutions proceed.

Trump arrives at courthouse

Monday 22 April 2024 14:29 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump has arrived at the courthouse and is making remarks in the hallway outside of the courtroom.

Alex Woodward reports:

The former president says that he is here instead of being in Pennsylvania and other places campaigning.

Continuing, he says that is very unfair and a witch hunt, and it’s a shame, and it comes out of Washington.

“I just want people to understand this was done with purpose of hurting the opponent of one of the worst presidents,” he says.

He then went into a long rambling defence of the bond he put up in the civil fraud case which is being questioned by New York Attorney General Letitia James and called Judge Arthur Engoron an “extremely crazed judge”.

“It’s a very, very sad day in America, I can tell you that. Thank you very much.”

He’s inside the courtroom now. We’re still not.

Who are the prosecution team?

Monday 22 April 2024 14:24 , Oliver O'Connell

While Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought the charges against former president Donald Trump, the case will be laid out by a team of three prosecutors — Joshua Steinglass, Matthew Colangelo, and Susan Hoffinger.

We don’t know yet which of them will present the prosecution’s opening statement.

Here’s Ariana Baio’s breakdown of who’s who in the case:

Meet the key players in Trump’s hush money trial

Full story: Trump’s legal fees eat into his campaign funds

Monday 22 April 2024 14:05 , Oliver O'Connell

Martha McHardy reports:

Donald Trump’s legal fees are taking a chunk out of his campaign funds – with one of the groups that has underwritten many of those costs having spent nearly $3.7m last month.

Figures released by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) show this is what the Save America political action committee (PAC) spent in March, amounting to nearly three in every four dollars it raised during the same period. It comes as Trump faces a number of legal cases – with his trial over allegations he tried to cover up a $130,000 hush-money payment to adult star Stormy Daniels to begin hearing evidence on Monday. Trump denies all the charges against him.

The money Save America spent on legal expenses rivals the $3.7 million Trump’s campaign committee spent altogether in March. It comes after President Joe Biden’s campaign spent $29.2 million on his campaign in March, including a barrage of media buys in swing states.

Continue reading...

Trump’s legal fees eat into his campaign funds as millions more drained from coffers

Will Donald Trump go to prison?

Monday 22 April 2024 13:56 , Oliver O'Connell

Trump faces four criminal indictments in four separate jurisdictions.

Nearly 100 felony criminal charges have been levelled against the former president, who remains the presumptive nominee to be the Republican Party’s presidential candidate once more in 2024.

As his legal battles grow more complex by the day, a serious question has emerged: what happens if Trump wins the nomination and campaigns for the general election as a convicted criminal?

That possibility, in turn, raises another simpler question: could the 45th president of the United States go to prison?

John Bowden attempts an answer.

Will Donald Trump go to prison?

In pictures: Trump departs Trump Tower

Monday 22 April 2024 13:50 , Oliver O'Connell

Former president Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower on his way to Manhattan criminal court, Monday, 22 April 2024 (AP)
Former president Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower on his way to Manhattan criminal court, Monday, 22 April 2024 (AP)
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Trump making his way to court from Trump Tower

Monday 22 April 2024 13:46 , Oliver O'Connell

And he seems to be posting away in the back of the car:

Analysis: Trump tries to command the narrative. Now he can only sit in silence

Monday 22 April 2024 13:40 , Joe Sommerlad

The city of New York is “crime-ridden and dying,” according to Donald Trump. He has called a criminal case against him a “mess,” the judge hopelessly “conflicted,” and the prosecutor a “thug.” The former president’s attorneys claim that the entire borough of Manhattan is “overwhelmingly biased” against him.

But for four days, a few dozen of his fellow New Yorkers told him how they felt, to his face, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Here’s Alex Woodward’s analysis on week one of the hush money trial.

Trump tries to command the narrative. Now he can only sit in silence

Truth Social: Trump moans ‘America Loving Protesters’ being prevented from demonstrating outside court

Monday 22 April 2024 13:28 , Joe Sommerlad

The defendant is up and seemingly posting about his supporters not being allowed to turn up to demonstrate against his trial but the reality last week was simply one of poor turnout, rather than suppression, surely?

Alex Woodward tells us that today: ”There are no protesters or demonstrations here whatsoever, at least from where we’re standing.”

Who is David Pecker?

Monday 22 April 2024 13:00 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s more on the man expected to be the first witness called at trial this week, courtesy of Martha McHardy.

David Pecker set to be called as first witness at Trump’s hush money trial

New York Post roasts ‘Moscow Marjorie’ over opposition to Ukraine aid bill

Monday 22 April 2024 12:45 , Joe Sommerlad

The tabloid has gone after Marjorie Taylor Greene over her opposition to aid for Ukraine to help defend itself against Russia.

Using a quote from former Republican congressman Ken Buck, the News Corp-owned paper — infamous for its front pages — refers to the Georgia Republican populist as “Moscow Marjorie”.

Here’s Buck on CNN on Friday explaining that Greene is “just mouthing the Russian propaganda”:

The Georgia lawmaker has fought vociferously against aiding the US ally in its fight against Vladimir Putin’s war, now in its second year.

On Saturday, she was furious after the House of Representatives passed the $60bn aid package for Ukraine, which heads to the Senate on Tuesday.

Here’s John Bowden on the passage of that package, which was very much the right thing to do but could nevertheless cost House speaker Mike Johnson his job if Greene has her way.

Ukraine aid finally passes the Republican House but may cost the GOP speaker his job

Trump facing a big week on legal front as hush money trial kicks off in earnest

Monday 22 April 2024 12:30 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s more from Alex Woodward outside the courthouse:

“Trump has a pretty big week coming up: His trial starts in earnest at the same time that Judge Arthur Engoron holds a hearing down the street on his fraud appeal bond.

“And his attorneys will be at the Supreme Court on Thursday for oral arguments in his ‘immunity’ defence, one of the most important cases before the court in our lifetimes.

“Trump’s team unsuccessfully tried to get him excused from his criminal trial so that he could attend the Supreme Court hearing. No dice.

“Instead, he’ll be surrounded by journalists in a crowded courtroom with a jury seated across the room from him.

“Last week’s jury selection was largely closed to the press and public, except for a pool of six reporters and a sketch artist. Now that the jury is seated, the full court will be open to reporters, as well as the adjoining overflow room.

“The courthouse doors don’t open for another hour but the line here is much longer than last week. Lots of international journalists here to capture the trial’s first ‘real’ week, with some larger US outlets sending several reporters into the court.

“But first up today Judge Merchan is expected to issue some pretrial rulings about what exactly prosecutors can bring up about Trump’s legal problems if he decides to testify.”

On that note, here’s what his defence team told the judge on Friday.

Trump lawyers say prosecutors want to ’pile things on’ from other cases during trial

New York hush money trial: What jail time could Trump face if he is convicted?

Monday 22 April 2024 12:15 , Joe Sommerlad

Here’s a look at the very real possibility of incarceration the former president is facing should matters go against him in Manhattan over the next few weeks.

What prison sentence could Trump face if he is convicted at his hush money trial?

New York hush money trial: Former Stormy Daniels lawyer says he would now testify for Trump

Monday 22 April 2024 12:00 , Joe Sommerlad

Michael Avenatti, the porn star’s disgraced former lawyer, has said that he is in touch with Trump’s legal defence team and is willing to testify on behalf of the former president at his trial.

“The defence has contacted me,” Avenatti told The New York Post from prison.

“I’d be more than happy to testify, I don’t know that I will be called to testify, but I have been in touch with Trump’s defence for the better part of a year.”

Avenatti is currently serving a 19-year sentence for extortion, tax evasion, fraud, embezzlement and other federal crimes at Terminal Island, a minimum-security federal prison in Los Angeles.

Disgraced former Stormy Daniels lawyer says he would now testify for Trump

Watch live: Trump’s New York hush money trial enters fifth day

Monday 22 April 2024 11:45 , Joe Sommerlad

You can catch all the latest from Manhattan via the livestream below.

Watch live as Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York enters fifth day

Melania joins grift with $245 Mother’s Day necklace

Monday 22 April 2024 11:15 , Joe Sommerlad

Golden sneakers, Lee Greenwood Bibles and now a customisable “Love & Gratitude” necklace for Mother’s Day – is this a presidential campaign or a home shopping channel?

Here’s Oliver O’Connell on Melania’s return to the campaign trail (well, sort of) on Saturday, which saw her help a conservative LGBT+ group, the Log Cabin Republicans, raise $1m at a Mar-a-Lago dinner.

Melania Trump makes low-profile return to campaign trail with LGBT fundraiser

Trump forced to call off North Carolina rally due to bad weather

Monday 22 April 2024 10:45 , Joe Sommerlad

The defendant complained bitterly last week that Judge Merchan’s requirement that he attend court four days a week was stopping him from travelling to key swing states to campaign for the presidency.

When he finally did get away over the weekend, his rally had to be cancelled because of the weather, which might just count as divine intervention (revenge for trying to cash-in on the Bible?)

This is what Trump had to say to his supporters on Truth Social.

New York hush money trial: The scene outside the court as day five dawns

Monday 22 April 2024 10:37 , Joe Sommerlad

Alex Woodward is back outside the court in Lower Manhattan for us once again this morning and reports:

“The gates for the staging area for press are still locked but there’s a line wrapping around the park in the meantime.

“There wasn’t an acknowledgement in court on Friday (probably for the best) of the man who self-immolated a few literal steps from where I’m standing now, and the security and police presence don’t seemed to have changed.

“We’re anticipating opening arguments from the prosecution and potentially a first witness, with speculation that it’s David Pecker.

“Justice Merchan will also likely handle any Sandoval business in the morning.”

The scene outside Manhattan Criminal Court early on day five of Donald Trump’s hush money trial (Alex Woodward/The Independent)
The scene outside Manhattan Criminal Court early on day five of Donald Trump’s hush money trial (Alex Woodward/The Independent)

New York hush money trial: What happened last week at jury selection?

Monday 22 April 2024 10:15 , Joe Sommerlad

Alex Woodward reported for The Independent from the courthouse in Lower Manhattan all of last week.

Here’s his look back at exactly what went down.

Trump tries to command the narrative. Now he can only sit in silence

New York hush money trial: David Pecker expected to be first witness

Monday 22 April 2024 09:45 , Joe Sommerlad

The New York Times reported last night that former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker is expected to be the first witness called by the prosecution this week.

MSNBC legal correspondent Lisa Rubin correctly called the Manhattan DA’s strategy a day earlier when she tweeted: “If I’m telling this story chronologically, the person I’d call first is this guy on the right, former American Media chairman David Pecker.

“According to the Manhattan DA’s statement of facts accompanying the indictment, the story begins with Trump’s infamous ride down the [escalator] in June 2015, when he declared his candidacy for president.

“But ‘soon after,’ in August 2015, Trump and Cohen met with Pecker, who offered to serve as the campaign’s ‘eyes and ears’ to help Trump – and hurt his rivals – through the National Enquirer’s coverage.

“That American Media made good on its promises is important, especially since it admitted to certain conduct through a non-prosecution agreement with DOJ in 2018 and this ‘conciliation agreement’ with the Federal Election Commission in 2021.

“But even more significant? Pecker can testify that Trump not only understood but heartily endorsed his publication’s offer to ‘catch and kill’ negative stories about him, especially as they pertained to Trump’s alleged extramarital affairs.

“And given how few people outside Michael Cohen directly communicated with Trump about the scheme at issue, Pecker’s testimony could be critical in establishing Trump’s intent and knowledge. FIN.”

Here’s a look at Pecker and the other key personnel likely to take the stand courtesy of Ariana Baio.

Meet the key players in Trump’s hush money trial

New York hush money trial: Trump defence team sets out its strategy on eve of opening statements

Monday 22 April 2024 09:15 , Joe Sommerlad

A member of Trump’s legal team yesterday divulged the defence’s plan to “focus on the facts” to show that the former president did nothing wrong, one day before the opening arguments are set to begin in the landmark hush money trial.

Kelly Rissman reports.

Trump team sets out its strategy on eve of opening statements in hush money trial

Truth Social: Trump slams ‘Soros Funded’ Alvin Bragg after calling for trial gag order to be removed

Monday 22 April 2024 08:45 , Joe Sommerlad

Posts like these seem extremely unlikely to endear the defendant to Judge Merchan and Alvin Bragg but Trump keeps right on “truthing” them anyway.

The first – invoking the right’s favourite liberal bogeyman, billionaire financier George Soros – finds him dabbling in antisemitic conspiracy theories to suggest the Manhattan DA is a puppet of shadowy and sinister forces. Entirely without evidence, of course.

That doesn’t stop him calling, with remarkable gall, for the removal of the gag order imposed on him by the judge.

Elsewhere, he’s been slamming the media for interviewing a former member of his own administration and threatening “non-profits” in a rather vague manner.

All the wild hush money case defences Trump has given so far

Monday 22 April 2024 08:15 , Oliver O'Connell

Former president Donald Trump’s legal team has used various defences for — and attempts to delay — his hush money case in which he is accused of 34 counts of falsifying business records.

None of them so far have worked.

Kelly Rissman reports:

Hush money trial: All the wild defences Trump has given so far

Will Trump’s hush money trial be on TV?

Monday 22 April 2024 07:15 , Oliver O'Connell

[Spoiler alert: No. You have to follow this blog. You’re welcome.]

Will Trump’s hush money trial be televised?

How much time could Trump spend in jail if convicted?

Monday 22 April 2024 06:15 , Oliver O'Connell

Joe Sommerlad writes:

Should Mr Trump ultimately be found guilty, he could theoretically face more than a decade in prison, according to CNN chief legal analyst Laura Coates, who points out that the felony counts against Mr Trump are classified as Class E crimes in New York, which are the lowest level felonies in the state.

But there’s more to it than that...

What prison sentence could Trump face if he is convicted at his hush money trial?

Trump’s calender of chaos heats up

Monday 22 April 2024 05:15 , Oliver O'Connell

In a typical presidential election year, candidates will spend the 11 months leading up to election day shaking hands and kissing babies at rallies as the primaries unfold.

But nothing is typical when it comes to Donald Trump.

Instead, the ex-president will be forced to juggle his campaign for the White House while also defending himself in federal and state courts in four different cases that have hearings and trial dates scattered throughout 2024.

Ariana Baio breaks down what the former president is facing:

How Trump’s trial dates and the 2024 election overlap

Judge Merchan to rule on what prosecutors can question Trump about if he testifies

Monday 22 April 2024 04:15 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Woodward reports:

Attorneys for Donald Trump told a judge overseeing the former president’s hush money trial on Friday that Manhattan prosecutors are merely trying to “distract” jurors and “pile things on” by introducing evidence from his string of other criminal and civil cases.

New York Justice Juan Merchan presided over a hearing to outline what prosecutors intend to ask Mr Trump if he chooses to testify at his criminal trial, including a defamation case and allegations of sexual abuse, a massive civil fraud judgment finding him liable for tens of millions of dollars, felony convictions targeting his business, and the dissolution of a namesake foundation used to boost his presidential campaign.

But the judge said that prosecutors’ request falls within the grounds of the so-called Sandoval hearing, during which a defendant with a history of misconduct or criminal acts who also plans to testify in his defence knows what they could be walking into.

Continue reading...

Trump lawyers say prosecutors want to ’pile things on’ from other cases during trial

NY AG: Trump’s $175m bond in fraud case should be voided

Monday 22 April 2024 03:15 , Oliver O'Connell

New York Attorney General Letitia James has asked the judge in Donald Trump’s civil fraud case to void the $175m bond posted previously by the former president, after questioning whether the insurance company has sufficient funds to back it up.

Mr Trump’s bond was posted by California-based Knight Specialty Insurance Company (KSIC), and Ms James raised concerns that the insurer was “not authorised” to write business in New York.

Mike Bedigan reports:

Trump’s $175m bond in fraud case should be voided, says New York attorney general

Trump’s fate is in the hands of 18 New Yorkers: Who are they?

Monday 22 April 2024 02:15 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Woodward writes:

During the first four days of the historic trial in a New York City courtroom, the former president snapped awake from the defence table and craned his neck to get a good view of the jury box and the pool of New Yorkers who could ultimately convict him of a crime.

Mr Trump has repeatedly tried, and failed, to move the case out of the borough, where he baselessly smeared the borough as hopelessly biased against him.

And so, during jury selection in the trial, he sat and heard firsthand from a group of Manhattan residents who pledged that they would be fair and impartial in hearing the case against him.

Continue reading...

Who are the jurors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial?