Monday, May 27, 2024

Trump trial live updates: Donald Trump, Juan Merchan enter courtroom in hush money case

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NEW YORK — The heart of former President Donald Trump‘s New York hush money trial, overseen by Judge Juan Merchan, kicks off Monday with opening statements.

Last week, 12 jurors were selected to decide if Trump falsified business records to cover up a hush money payment from his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump authorized the payment in order to keep Daniels from hurting his 2016 presidential campaign by going public with her story that the pair had sex, according to the prosecutors. Trump denies Daniels’ claim and has pleaded not guilty.

Keep up with USA TODAY’s live updates from inside and outside the Manhattan courthouse:

Trump Media stock price

At open on April 22, Trump Media & Technology Group Corp share price fell to $35, down 3.79% from previous close

– Kinsey Crowley

Donald Trump attacks officials over hush money trial without offering proof

Donald Trump sharply criticized the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office on Monday morning as opening arguments were set to get underway, telling reporters that the hush money case against him amounts to unfair election “interference.”

“Everybody knows it,” Trump said outside of court, claiming that the trial is preventing him from being on the campaign trail.”

“Fortunately, the poll numbers are very good. They’ve been going up because people understand what’s going on. It’s a witch hunt and it’s a shame. And it comes out of Washington,” Trump said, without offering any proof.

There is no indication that anyone in Washington, including the Biden administration, has played any role in the first criminal prosecution of Trump on charges of paying hush money to two women just before the 2016 election who claimed to have had sex with him.

  – Josh Meyer

Judge Juan Merchan is presiding over the first criminal trial of a former president in U.S. history. Donald Trump has been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up the hush money payments issued to Stormy Daniels.

Merchan has been a felony judge for 15 years. 

Before that, Merchan served as an assistant attorney general for Nassau County, on suburban Long Island, and in the Manhattan district attorney’s office for five years.

He received his bachelor’s degree is from Baruch College and his law degree is from Hofstra University.

– Kinsey Crowley and Bart Jansen

Judge Merchan announced that Juror #9, who expressed concern about continuing due to media attention, will remain in the trial. Merchan just met with the juror outside the courtroom.– Aysha Bagchi

A juror called the court expressing concern about attending the trial due to media attention, but the juror is here today, Judge Juan Merchan said. Merchan and members from each legal team are currently meeting with the juror outside the courtroom.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge Merchan announced court will be ending at 12:30 p.m. ET today because an alternate juror needs to get to an emergency appointment due to a toothache. Court was already scheduled to end early at 2 p.m. ET today and tomorrow for the Passover holiday.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge Juan Merchan entered the courtroom at 9:31 a.m. ET.

– Aysha Bagchi

Former President Donald Trump entered the courtroom at 9:26 a.m. ET.– Aysha Bagchi

If Donald Trump is convicted on all counts in his New York criminal hush money trial that started last week, he could theoretically face more than a decade in prison.

But most legal experts who spoke to USA TODAY said such a dramatic outcome is unlikely. Instead, he would likely be sentenced to something between probation and four years in prison.

And he would probably still be out, free to campaign for president as the presumptive or actual 2024 Republican nominee, while his all-but-certain appeal was pending.

– Aysha Bagchi

Donald Trump has entered the Manhattan courthouse as the second week of his hush money trial begins

– Bart Jansen

Hush money is a wide-ranging term used to refer to paying someone to not speak publicly about an issue. It’s not necessarily illegal, so why is Donald Trump in court over a hush money case?

The former president isn’t actually charged with making a $130,000 payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement. Instead, he’s accused of falsifying business records to hide the payment.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg described the payments to Daniels and another woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, as part of a “catch-and-kill” strategy to prevent the women from telling their stories. But the criminal charges are that Trump falsified his company’s business records to conceal the payments.

– Bart Jansen

Who are Donald Trump’s lawyers?

Trump’s defense team is led by Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles.

Blanche was a federal prosecutor for nine years in the Southern District of New York, which includes Manhattan. As a prominent white-collar defense lawyer he has defended Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn and Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Necheles is ranked among the top criminal defense lawyers in New York by the legal rating and head-hunting firm Chambers and Partners. She was also a former counsel to Venero Mangano, the former Genovese crime family underboss known as Benny Eggs..  

– Josh Meyer

No, the trial won’t be televised or available to watch online or aired on TV.

New York court rules state that audio-visual coverage of trials is not permitted unless a representative of the news media submits an application and the judge allows it.

Records show an application was submitted to cover the arraignment, but not the trial. Judge Juan Merchan rejected the request to televise the arraignment.

– Kinsey Crowley and Aysha Bagchi

Karen McDougal indirectly received a hush money payment in 2016 after claiming to have an affair with Donald Trump. Cohen funneled the money through the National Enquirer under a “catch and kill” approach, paying the tabloid to buy rights to her story and prevent her from telling anyone else about it.

he National Enquirer, owned by American Media Inc., was fined $187,500 by the Federal Election Commission for paying McDougal $150,000 for exclusive rights to her story with the intent of influencing the election. McDougal also sued the company. She has since spoken out about her affair with Trump, saying it lasted for 10 months starting in 2006.

– Kinsey Crowley

Donald Trump’s hush money trial that begins Monday in Manhattan could last as long as eight weeks.

It is the first time a former president has been criminally charged, although Trump has now also been charged in three other criminal cases in other jurisdictions for attempting to overturn the 2020 election and hoarding classified documents after leaving office.

In New York, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records for allegedly disguising hush money payments issued to porn star Stormy Daniels. He has pleaded not guilty.

– Aysha Bagchi and Kinsey Crowley

Proceedings in Donald Trump’s hush money trial are expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. local time in New York.

– Marina Pitofsky

David Pecker, the former head of the National Enquirer’s parent company, is expected to be the first witness in Donald Trump’s hush money trial about how the company routinely paid for scandalous stories that it didn’t publish, under what others called a “catch-and-kill” strategy.

Pecker was president and CEO of American Media Inc. (AMI) in August 2015, when he met with Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to “help deal with negative stories about Trump” by purchasing them and not publishing them, according to a Federal Election Commission agreement with the company.

After a lawyer for Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claimed an affair with Trump, contacted the company, Pecker and Dylan Howard, the company’s vice president and chief content officer, notified Cohen, according to the FEC agreement.

In August 2016, the company McDougal $150,000 for her life story, including about any relationship with “any then-married man” and then didn’t publish the story, according to the FEC agreement.

– Bart Jansen

Opening statements are expected to start at 9:30 a.m. today at Donald Trump’s criminal trial. The former president ffaces 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with a payment of $130,000 in hush money to an adult film actress ahead of his 2016 presidential campaign.

But where is the trial? Who are the key players? Go deeper with USA TODAY’s graphics team:

More: Wonder what it would be like to watch the Trump trial? Graphics take you inside courtroom.

While the hush money trial is underway Monday morning, Judge Arthur Engoron will be hearing arguments in a courthouse next door over whether Trump’s $175 million appeal bond passes muster in his New York civil fraud case.

The bond, if accepted by Engoron, will prevent New York Attorney General Letitia James from seizing Trump’s assets while his appeal over the $454 million judgment against him is pending. James is arguing that Trump hasn’t demonstrated he provided enough collateral to truly back up the bond, which was provided by Knight Specialty Insurance Company.

The Knight company is owned by self-proclaimed Trump supporter and California billionaire Don Hankey.

An appeal bond functions as a guarantee that a judgment will be paid once the appeal is over, at least in the amount of the bond. A New York appeals court allowed Trump and his co-defendants to post just $175 million, instead of the full $464 million judgment they face – all but $10 million of which Trump faces personally.

– Aysha Bagchi

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