HomeWorldOpening statements underway in Trump’s criminal hush money trial: Live updates

Opening statements underway in Trump’s criminal hush money trial: Live updates


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Trump delivers rant before entering court for hush money trial

After a tense week of jury selection, Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial is now truly underway with the prosecution and defence presenting their opening statements.

The jury will then hear evidence against the former president. The first witness will be tabloid mogul and National Enquirer owner David Pecker.

New York Justice Juan Merchan ruled that Manhattan prosecutors can question Mr Trump about a blockbuster fraud ruling, gag order violations and defamation verdicts if he chooses to testify.

The defendant spent much of the weekend complaining about the case on Truth Social and angrily posting his presidential immunity claims — on which the Supreme Court will hear arguments this Thursday.

Meanwhile, figures released by the Federal Election Commission on Saturday revealed that legal fees had eaten up three-quarters of the cash brought in by the pro-Trump Save America PAC, a key fundraising group.

Elsewhere among the myriad legal issues engulfing the former president, Monday will also see a hearing on whether to cancel Mr Trump’s $175m bond to appeal the civil fraud trial ruling and the public filing of witness statements in the classified documents case.

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


Judge sustains two objections from prosecutors

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.

Oliver O’Connell22 April 2024 16:46


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.”

Alex Woodward22 April 2024 16:39


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

Alex Woodward22 April 2024 16:31


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?

Alex Woodward22 April 2024 16:26


Defence begins opening statement

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.”

Alex Woodward22 April 2024 16:19


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.”

Alex Woodward22 April 2024 16:16


‘It was election fraud. Pure and simple’

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.

Oliver O’Connell22 April 2024 16:15


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.

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.

Oliver O’Connell22 April 2024 16:13


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

Alex Woodward22 April 2024 16:06


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.

Alex Woodward22 April 2024 15:59

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