Opening statements conclude in Trump’s New York hush money case News
White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Opening statements conclude in Trump’s New York hush money case

Opening statements concluded Monday in the case that designated Donald Trump as the first former US president to be charged with a crime.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records to conceal information with the aim of unlawfully influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. The case centers on 34 counts of business record falsification in the first degree, which is a felony.

Prosecutors claim Trump paid hush money to several individuals, including Trump Tower doorman Dino Sajudin, who was allegedly paid $30,000 to cover up details of a child born out of wedlock; Playboy model Karen McDougal, who was allegedly paid $150,000 to cover up details of an alleged romantic affair; and adult film star Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clifford), who was paid $130,000, also allegedly to cover up an affair.

In a statement to reporters in advance of opening statements, reposted on his media platform Truth Social, Trump was defiant:

These are all Biden trials. This is done as election interference. Everybody knows it. I’m here instead of being able to be in Pennsylvania and Georgia and lots of other places campaigning, and it’s very unfair. Fortunately, the poll numbers are very good; they’ve been going up because people understand what’s going on. This is a witch hunt, and it’s a shame, and it comes out of Washington. It’s in coordination with Washington, everything, including the DA’s office. It’s in coordination with Washington. I just want people to understand that this is done for purposes of hurting the opponent of the worst president in the history of our country.

As has been true throughout the case, a large media presence filled the courtroom. As live-tweeted by journalists Anna Bower of Lawfare and Adam Klasfeld of Just Security, in opening statements, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo highlighted Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape where the president spoke openly about lewd conduct. Colangelo said the controversy surrounding Trump’s comments gave the former president motive to swiftly silence extramarital affair accusations from adult film actress Stormy Daniels in order to mitigate damage to his 2016 campaign.

In contrast, Trump’s counsel Todd Blanche questioned why Trump would make a $410,000 payment to cover up a $130,000 debt. Blanche also attacked the credibility of prosecution witnesses Michael Cohen, the ex-Trump lawyer who made the alleged payment to Daniels, and Stormy Daniels herself. Trump’s counsel brought up the fact that Cohen had previously been convicted of perjury and that the ex-attorney allegedly wants to see Trump imprisoned. Blanche also claimed that Daniels, too, harbors bias against Trump.

The court adjourned just before 12:30 PM as former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker began his testimony for the prosecution. Pecker is expected to testify about an alleged conspiracy to buy exclusive rights to stories that may damage the Trump campaign without intent to publish them.