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History made in Trump New York trial opening statements

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//April 22, 2024//

Manhattan's Criminal Court House ahead of Donald Trump's opening Statements Monday. Staff Photo: Steve Schuster

History made in Trump New York trial opening statements

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//April 22, 2024//

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For the first time in American history, Manhattan prosecutors are presenting charges in a criminal case against a former American president to a jury.

As former President Donald Trump’s motorcade arrived in New York City on Monday morning, protesters greeted him chanting, “Trump is not above the law.”

Protesters greet former President Donald Trump’s motorcade Monday in Manhattan. Staff Photo: Steve Schuster

More than a hundred journalists lined the streets, according to NYPD.

Opening statements in Trump’s New York hush money criminal trial began Monday in Manhattan, painting jurors a dark picture of democracy under attack.

Republicans are saying Democracy is under attack because of the timing of the trial. Democrats are saying Democracy is under attack because Trump allegedly hid his past activities to make him a more attractive presidential candidate in 2016.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is leading the prosecution against Trump.

Matthew Colangelo, a prosecutor in Bragg’s office, opened Monday saying Trump is lying and committing a conspiracy.

Colangelo argued Trump engaged in a conspiracy that concealed negative information so he would be elected, “with intent to commit fraud.”

“Those three men, Donald Trump, Michael Cohen and David Pecker, struck an agreement. Together they conspired to influence the 2016 presidential election,” Colangelo said.

Donald Trump “orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election,” Colangelo said. Cohen served as Trump’s attorney and Pecker is the National Enquirer’s former publisher and a Trump ally.

The three gathered at Trump Tower in Manhattan, Colangelo said, noting that was the venue where the conspiracy formed.

According to Colangelo, there were three parts of conspiracy, to publish negative stories about political opponents, to run positive stories about Trump, and to monitor other news coverage.

The evidence will show this was a highly unusual deal, even for tabloid journalism,” Colangelo added.

Manhattan Judge Juan Manuel Merchan’s  jury instructions concluded just before 10:30 a.m. EDT on Monday.

“Make sure your decision is based on the evidence, not stereotypes. Justice deserves no less,” Merchan said in closing of jury instructions.

Voir Dire concluded last week as 12 jurors and six alternates were sworn in Friday. Also on Friday, video cameras stationed outside the Manhattan courthouse captured images of a Florida man who lit himself on fire outside of the courthouse. He later died.

As previously reported, Trump is accused of falsifying business records to hide stories that would have hurt his presidential campaign in 2016.

The focus of the alleged scheme is a $130,000 payment made to adult film actor Stormy Daniels by Cohen.

It is alleged that Cohen and Trump worked to prevent her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump from becoming public ahead of the 2016 election.

In addition to the former adult film star and legal counsel likely being called to testify, the news media has also been in the spotlight.

Pecker, the former CEO of American Media, is expected to be called to testify after the former journalist met with Trump and Cohen at Trump Tower in August 2015 and agreed to assist the Trump’s campaign identify negative stories about him.

In an “emergency broadcast” email to his base Sunday, former President Donald Trump wrote, “while I am being relentlessly persecuted, I need to know now more than ever that you will join me and NEVER surrender.”

“I’m not scared of facing life in prison … I’m scared that losing this fight to the radical left Democrats will mean complete destruction of the America we know and love,” Trump wrote in a second email to supporters on Sunday.

However, at least in the New York matter, he was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records and is facing up to four years in prison if convicted.

Merchan has not yet provided clarity if the former president would be put behind bars, if convicted.

On the other side of fence, Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche delivered his opening statement saying the state’s case is baseless, further arguing Trump hasn’t committed a crime.

“Trump had nothing to do with” false business records, “except that he signed the checks, in the White House, while he was running the country,” Blanche said.

According to Marchan, the trial will continue Tuesday, starting 11 a.m.

According to prosecutors, “dramatic and embarrassing” testimony will likely follow over the coming weeks about the former president’s personal life as he builds his campaign war chest for another presidential run.

The Associated Press previously reported a conviction would not preclude Trump from becoming president again, but because it is a state case, he would not be able to attempt to pardon himself if found guilty.

As Trump called the trial “rigged” on Sunday and previously referred to it as “election interference.” Manhattan prosecutors are also calling it “election interference.”

Despite Trump’s legal defense team’s longtime argument that the timing of his criminal trials before the 2024 election is blatant interference, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his team of prosecutors argued “beneath the sordid details on the surface, the felony charges the former President is facing are really about election interference,” Politico reported.

As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, earlier in April, a Manhattan judge rejected Trump‘s bid to delay his April 15 hush money criminal trial until the Supreme Court rules on presidential immunity claims he raised in another of his criminal cases.

Trump first raised the immunity issue in his Washington, D.C., criminal case, which alleges he worked to overturn the results of his 2020 election loss before the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump’s legal cases in Florida over classified documents and in Georgia over the alleged fake electors scandal are also continuing to move forward.

As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, a Fulton County, Georgia, judge overseeing the election interference case against Donald Trump and 18 others rejected arguments to dismiss the case earlier in April. Defense counsel argued that the indictment criminalized political speech protected by the First Amendment.


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