May 29, 2024
Money

Porn stars, sex scandals and zzzs: The A to Z of Trump’s hush money trial | US News


Opening statements are due to be heard in the trial of Donald Trump over hush money payments to a porn star.

A jury has been selected at the New York court which will witness the first criminal trial of a former US president.

Opening remarks by the prosecution and defence teams will be followed by evidence from witnesses.

Donald Trump faces 34 charges of falsifying business records. They relate to $130,000 paid to porn star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about an alleged affair in the days before the 2016 US presidential election, which Trump won.

He is accused of criminally altering business records to cover up the payment. His lawyers say the payment was meant to spare himself and his family embarrassment, not to help him win the election.

Trump denies the charges against him.

Below is an A-Z guide of this historic trial:

A is for AMI, the publishing company whose portfolio includes the National Enquirer magazine. It admitted its involvement in a scheme to suppress damaging stories about Trump prior to the 2016 election.

B is for Bragg, as in Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney who has brought this prosecution. Upon issuing the indictment, Mr Bragg said: “Someone lied again and again to protect their interests and evade the laws to which we are all held accountable.” He has been the target of racist abuse and death threats. Trump has called him a “thug” and a “degenerate psychopath”.

C is for “Catch & Kill”, the prosecution label for the scheme to “catch” stories of Trump’s extra-marital liaisons and “kill” them before they could be published.

D is for Daniels, as in Stormy Daniels. The former porn star – real name Stephanie Clifford – claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006 after meeting him at a golf tournament. He denies they had an affair. Ms Daniels claims she accepted $130,000 from Trump’s lawyer to keep it quiet, days before the 2016 election.

Who is the porn star at centre of Trump’s hush money case?

E is for entries, as in entries into Trump’s company books. The “hush money” payments were made by Trump’s lawyer, who was then reimbursed. The reimbursement was put through the books as legal expenses – aka “falsifying business records”.

F is for four years. It’s how long Trump could face in state prison for each of the 34 counts he’s charged with, to a maximum of 20 years. A prison sentence is thought unlikely, however, for a non-violent first-time criminal offender.

G is for gag order. The judge has ordered Trump not to make, or direct others to make, public statements about witnesses or other participants in the case. The district attorney argues Trump has breached the order and wants a $1,000 fine imposed.

H is for Hope Hicks. Trump’s press secretary during the 2016 campaign, and one of his most trusted confidantes, is expected to testify. Her “in the room” evidence could take us to the heart of the Trump operation as it fought to suppress scandal.

I is for interference, as in election interference. Prosecutors say the falsification of business records was carried out for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election.



Image:
Pic: Curtis Means/Pool via Reuters

J is for jury. Seven men and five women have been selected for duty. Six others will sit through the trial as alternates, or replacements, if needed. Jury members have been subject to a rigorous assessment of their ability to be impartial, including questions on their political affiliations, news sources and views on Trump himself.

K is for Karen McDougal. She is the other woman involved in the hush money payments scheme. The former Playboy model claims to have had an affair that started in 2006 and that she and Trump had sex “many dozens of times”. Her silence was allegedly bought for $150,000.

L is for liar. It’s the description used by Trump of the witness at the centre of the prosecution (see M). Michael Cohen admitted lying to Congress in 2017 about a Trump project in Russia. His admission is highlighted by Trump in an effort to discredit him.

Trump has called Michael Cohen a ‘proven liar’

M is for Michael Cohen, the “star” witness. He was Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer who made the hush money payments. In 2018, he was jailed for his part in the scheme and given a three-year sentence for campaign finance violations. He was also convicted of lying to Congress among other crimes. Cohen once said he’d “take a bullet” for Trump but now calls him a “cheat”, a “bully” and a “conman”. Trump calls Cohen a “rat” and a “proven liar”.

N is for a New York jurisdiction. Trump, originally from Queen’s in New York, is being tried on home turf. However, the jury pool, from which its members were selected, doesn’t sit well with his politics. New York is Democrat territory and that concerns the defence team of a Republican presidential candidate. It has tried, but failed, to have the trial moved elsewhere.

Trump in New York: ‘I love this city’

O is for other cases. Trump’s three other criminal prosecutions are snagged in delay and legal argument. On Thursday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on his right, or otherwise, to immunity from prosecution in relation to the 6 January Capitol riots. Its decision, and the speed with which it’s made, will dictate whether that case is heard before the November election. The other two – on mishandling classified documents and Georgia election interference – look less likely to proceed in that timeframe.

P is for Pecker, as in David Pecker. The owner of AMI publishing could be a key witness. In a “non-prosecution” agreement, AMI has admitted to making hush-money payments. Pecker, a long-time Trump ally, agreed to identify negative stories about Trump so they could be bought and their publication avoided.

The key figures in the Donald Trump hush money case

Q is for questions about politics in the administration of US justice. In most American states, District Attorneys (prosecutors) are elected and Donald Trump points to the Democratic leanings of Alvin Bragg. In a news release the day before opening statements, the Trump team wrote that “his lawfare efforts against President Trump were the lead focus of his [election] campaign”.

R is for removal from the presidential campaign trail – a Trump complaint. He told the media at court: “I’m supposed to be in New Hampshire, I’m supposed to be in Georgia, I’m supposed to be in North Carolina, South Carolina. I’m supposed to be in a lot of different places campaigning, but I’ve been here all day on a trial that really is a very unfair trial.”

S is for the sex scandal that hung over Team Trump in the midst of the 2016 hush money payment and, arguably, drove the scheme. In a so-called “Access Hollywood” tape that was made public, Trump was heard to say about women: “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything, grab them by the [genitals]. You can do anything.” It was three weeks later that the money was paid to Stormy Daniels.

T is for testimony. Trump insists he will testify during the trial. If so, prosecutors have asked the judge if they can raise his previous brushes with the law, for example, a civil court’s finding of sexual assault, to cast doubt on his credibility.

U is for unanimous. Members of the jury must deliver a unanimous verdict to convict Trump. He only needs one to dissent.

V is for the vote, as in the impact a conviction will have on Trump at the polls. While this, and other prosecutions, have cemented support for Trump among his MAGA base (Make America Great Again) and have fuelled fundraising, that isn’t necessarily the case with voters generally. A recent Politico/IPSOS survey showed that more than a third of independent voters said a guilty verdict would make them less likely to support Trump’s candidacy – potentially significant, in a tight race.

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W is for “witch hunt”. Trump repeatedly criticises this prosecution, and others, as a “political witch hunt”. He views it as an effort to undermine his presidential election campaign and has branded it a “scam” and “an assault on America”.

X is for the cross that potential jurors were asked to put against groups they might have been members of: the QAnon movement, Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, Three Percenters, Boogaloo Boys and Antifa.

Y is for yellow. It’s how a juror described Trump, having seen him in court. She told MSNBC: “He looked less orange, definitely, like more yellowish, like yellow.”

Z is for zzzz… During jury selection, some observers said Trump fell asleep in court, more than once. New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman noted: “Mr Trump appeared to nod off a few times, his mouth going slack and his head dropping onto his chest.” Trump’s aides denied the suggestion.



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