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Trump Prosecutors in NY to Argue Former President Sought to Sway 2016 Election

Donald Trump’s first criminal trial is underway in New York state court. Opening arguments started on Monday, April 22, 2024 for the felony case where he is accused of falsifying business records to cover up hush money paid to an adult film actress shortly before the 2016 election. This is the first criminal trial for a former U.S. president. 

Trump in court during Hush money trial

The former president is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in relation to these allegations. In a study of nearly 10,000 New York state court cases where people were accused of falsifying business records as their most serious charge: one in ten of those sentenced received some prison time. Sentences for a guilty verdict can range from probation to up to four years in prison for each count on which Trump is charged. 

Jury & Alternates Selected

The case formally began last week with the selection of 12 jurors, along with 6 alternates. The jurors, 7 men and 5 women, had a range of interests and backgrounds.

Trial Begins With Opening Arguments & First Witness

Prosecutors argued Monday that Trump sought to “orchestrate a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election” by hiding the payment of $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, with whom he had an extramarital affair. These payments were made by Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen.

The first witness in the case also testified on Monday and Tuesday. David Pecker, the former CEO of the National Enquirer’s parent company, spoke about how the Enquirer ran its newsroom, including that they engaged in “checkbook journalism,” meaning they paid for stories they considered valuable or of interest. 

Pecker testified that he remained on the alert for potential negative stories about former president Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. He then used his media company to buy them and suppress them, a practice known as “catch and kill.” In his testimony, Pecker described paying former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal $150,000 for her silence about an extramarital affair she had with Trump.

Prosecutors hope to use the testimony to show that Trump was concerned reports of sexual improprieties would make female voters reluctant to vote for him. 


Transcripts to Be Made Public

Filings and daily transcripts in the case will be made available to the public

Gag Order Hearing

New York Supreme Court Justice Merchan, who is overseeing the case, heard arguments on Tuesday, April 23, about whether Trump violated a gag order which prohibits the former president from speaking publicly about witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and jurors in the case, as well as their families. The order was expanded after Trump attacked Judge Merchan’s daughter online. 

Prosecutors said that Trump had  violated the order numerous times with social media posts. They asked the judge to remind Trump that he could be jailed if he continues to do so.  Justice Merchan did not immediately rule on the matter.

Trump, who is the Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential vote, faces three additional sets of criminal charges. They are related to the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol, election interference in Georgia, and mishandling classified documents.



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