• Sun. May 19th, 2024

Opening statements expected at Trump’s NYC hush-money trial: Live updates

Opening statements expected at Trump's NYC hush-money trial: Live updates

Donald Trump is expected to return to the Manhattan criminal courthouse on Monday, where his historic hush money trial is slated to proceed in earnest with opening statements. 

The former president had a difficult first week in court as jury selection got underway. He apparently fell asleep at the defense table, was forced to listen to how potential jurors dragged him online, railed against officials outside the courtroom doors, and was threatened with a fresh round of sanctions. His fourth bid to delay the case in two weeks failed Friday. 

Check back here for live updates throughout the day.

What is Trump accused of?

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee is charged with 34 felony counts of falsification of New York business records that allege he camouflaged payment for an illegal hush-money scheme to his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, by falsely logging it in the books as reimbursement for legal services.

Former President Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial. (Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Images)
Former President Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial. (Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Images)

The charges carry up to four years in prison, which Trump is unlikely to face as a first-time, nonviolent offender, should he be convicted. But the trial is eating into his campaign schedule just over six months out from this year’s presidential election, and a conviction could disqualify him in the minds of some voters. 

As he vies for the presidency once again, Trump faces 88 felonies across four states alleging crime sprees that started the year before he won the White House until the year he left. He denies allegations in his various cases that he plotted to subvert democracy and illegally hoarded classified documents. 

The hush money scheme

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleges that Trump devised a hush money scheme soon after he launched his first bid for the presidency at an August 2015 Trump Tower meeting between him, his then-lawyer Michael Cohen, and the former CEO of American Media David Pecker, then publisher of The National Enquirer — who the jury is expected to meet first. 

When he takes the stand, Cohen — who in 2018 received a three-year federal prison term after pleading guilty to related campaign finance charges — is expected to walk the jury through the plot to bury rumors about his boss’s alleged infidelity and an eleventh-hour dash to prevent the 2016 electorate from learning about Stormy Daniels. 

Stormy Daniels (JC Olivera/Getty Images)
Stormy Daniels (JC Olivera/Getty Images)

The porn star, who’s also expected to testify, alleges she slept with Trump at a July 2006 charity golf tournament event by Lake Tahoe shortly after Melania gave birth to Barron Trump and that Trump paid her into silence via Cohen and AMI before the election. She’s described her tryst with Trump as “getting cornered coming out of a bathroom” and not an “affair.”

Another expected witness allegedly paid off on the eve of the election, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, claims she also slept with Trump at the golf tournament during a heated 10-month affair. 

Prosecutors say Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 and facilitated Pecker’s AMI in paying off McDougal for $150,000 and also a doorman at Trump Tower for $30,000, who wanted to sell his allegations about Trump fathering a child out of wedlock. Trump’s ex-fixer and AMI admitted to their roles in Cohen’s 2018 federal case. 

Recent developments 

In the week since his trial got underway, prosecutors have accused Trump of breaking a gag order prohibiting him from publicly attacking those involved in the trial no less than ten times. They’ve asked Merchan to fine him thousands of dollars for the offending posts on his Truth Social website, which the judge is expected to mull at a hearing on Tuesday. 

Despite expectations that the jury selection process in the high-stakes case would take weeks, the panel of seven men and five women who will be tasked with weighing the first criminal case against a former U.S. president took just three days to assemble. Six alternate jurors had been selected by midday Friday.

Former President Donald Trump sits at the defendant's table during his criminal trial as jury selection continues at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 19, 2024 in New York City. (Sarah Yenesel - Pool/Getty Images)
Donald Trump sits at the defendant’s table during the first week of his criminal trial, April 19, 2024 in New York City. (Sarah Yenesel – Pool/Getty Images)

By the end of the week’s proceedings, the gravity of the case had set in with some potential jurors, who said they no longer felt they could be impartial. One woman broke down into tears during proceedings, and another asked to be relieved when her friends and family guessed she’d been chosen to serve. 

The jurors’ identities will remain anonymous to the public, but Trump and his team know them. Unlike in other high-profile court proceedings in recent years at the downtown courthouses, they have not been partially sequestered, which is when court officials arrange their transport to and from the trial. 

On Friday, Trump failed to convince an appeals court to delay the trial while he tries to get it moved out of Manhattan. He’s required to be in court in person every day, with Merchan denying a request to let him come in late on Thursday so he can attend Supreme Court arguments in D.C. aimed at dodging his federal election subversion case. 

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