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Trump hush money case: Testimony resumes in historic trial

NEW YORK (AP) — A longtime tabloid editor was scheduled to tell jurors Tuesday about his efforts to help Donald Trump tamping down unflattering stories during the 2016 campaign as testimony resumes the historic secret money trial of the former president.

David PeckerThe former National Enquirer publisher who prosecutors say worked with Trump and Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, on a strategy called “catch and kill” to buy and then spread negative stories, testified briefly Monday and will back on the stand Tuesday in the Manhattan trial. .

What you need to know about Trump’s secret trial:

Also Tuesday, prosecutors are expected to tell a judge that Trump should be held in contempt over a series of posts on his Truth Social platform that they say violated a previous order of silence prohibiting him from attacking witnesses in this case. Trump’s lawyers deny violating the order.

Pecker’s testimony followed opening statements in which prosecutors alleged that Trump sought to illegally influence the 2016 race by preventing damaging stories about his personal life from being made public, including approving secret payments to a porn actor who claimed to have had an extramarital sexual relationship with Trump. decade earlier. Trump has denied this.

“This was a long-planned plot to influence the 2016 election, help Donald Trump get elected through illegal spending, and silence people who had anything negative to say about him. behavior,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said. “It was voter fraud, pure and simple.”

Former President Donald Trump, center, waits for proceedings to begin in Manhattan Criminal Court, Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York.  Opening statements in Donald Trump's historic hush money trial are about to begin.  Trump is accused of falsifying internal business records as part of an alleged scheme to bury stories he said could damage his 2016 presidential campaign. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, Pool)

Former President Donald Trump, center, waits for proceedings to begin in Manhattan Criminal Court, Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, Pool)

A defense attorney responded by attacking the integrity of Trump’s former confidant, who is now the government’s star witness.

“President Trump is innocent. President Trump has committed no crime. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office should not have brought this case,” attorney Todd Blanche said.

The opening statements offered the Jury of 12 people and voters have radically divergent road maps for an affair that will play out against the backdrop of a hotly contested White House race in which Trump is not only the presumptive Republican nominee but also a criminal defendant facing the prospect of a felony conviction and prison time.

This is the first criminal trial of a former US president and the first of four lawsuits against Trump to reach a jury. Consistent with that history, prosecutors sought from the outset to elevate the seriousness of the case, which they said was primarily about election interference, as evidenced by secret money payments to a porn actress who said she had sex with Trump.

“The defendant, Donald Trump, orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election. Then he covered up this criminal conspiracy by lying over and over again in his business records in New York,” Colangelo said.

Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records — a charge punishable by up to four years in prison — although it’s unclear whether the judge would seek to put him behind bars. A conviction would not prevent Trump from becoming president again, but because it is a state matter, he would not be able to pardon himself if convicted. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The case brought by Alvin Bragg, Manhattan District Attorney revisits a years-old chapter in Trump’s biography when his celebrity past collided with his political ambitions and, prosecutors say, he rushed to suppress stories that, they feared, could torpedo his campaign.

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom during his criminal trial in Manhattan State Court in New York, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP )

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom during his criminal trial in Manhattan State Court in New York, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP )

The opening statements served as an introduction to the colorful cast of characters who figure prominently in this sordid saga, including Stormy Daniels, the porn actor who says he received secret money; Cohen, the lawyer who prosecutors say paid her; and Pecker, who prosecutors say agreed to function as the campaign’s “eyes and ears.”

In his opening statement, Colangelo described a comprehensive effort by Trump and his allies to prevent three stories — two from women alleging prior sexual relationships — from surfacing during the 2016 presidential campaign. to the late emergence of the race for a 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording in which Trump could be heard boasting about sexually assaulting women without their permission.

“The impact of this tape on the campaign was immediate and explosive,” Colangelo said.

Days after the “Access Hollywood” tape became public, Colangelo told jurors that the National Enquirer alerted Cohen that Daniels was campaigning to make public her claims about a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006.

“At Trump’s direction, Cohen negotiated a deal to buy Ms. Daniels’ story to prevent American voters from hearing this story before Election Day,” Colangelo told jurors.

But, the prosecutor noted, “neither Trump nor the Trump Organization could simply write a check to Cohen with a memo line saying ‘reimbursement for porn star earnings.’ it looks like the payment was actually income, payment for services rendered.

These allegedly falsified records form the backbone of the 34-count indictment against Trump. Trump has denied having a sexual relationship with Daniels.

Blanche, the defense attorney, sought to preemptively undermine the credibility of Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to his role in the hush money scheme, as someone “obsessed” with Trump who cannot be trusted. He said Trump did nothing illegal when his company recorded the checks written to Cohen as legal fees and said it was not illegal for a candidate to try to influence an election.

Blanche disputed the notion that Trump accepted payment from Daniels to save his campaign, instead calling the transaction an attempt to stifle a “sinister” effort to embarrass Trump and those close to him.

“President Trump fought back, as he always does, and as he has the right to do, to protect his family, his reputation and his brand, and that is not a crime,” Blanche told jurors.

Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower to enter Manhattan Criminal Court, Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York.  Opening statements in Donald Trump's historic hush money trial are about to begin.  Trump is accused of falsifying internal business records as part of an alleged scheme to bury stories he said could damage his 2016 presidential campaign. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower to enter Manhattan Criminal Court, Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Stefan Jérémie)

Efforts to suppress stories amount to what the tabloid industry calls “catch-and-kill”: catching a potentially damaging story by buying the rights to it, then killing it through deals that prevent the person being paid from tell the story to anyone. other.

In addition to paying Daniels, Colangelo also described arrangements to pay a former Playboy model $150,000 to suppress allegations of a nearly year-long affair with the married Trump. Colangelo said Trump “desperately didn’t want this information about Karen McDougal made public because he was worried about its effect on the election.”

He said jurors will hear a recording Cohen made in September 2016 in which he informed Trump of the plan to buy McDougal’s story. The recording was made public in July 2018. Colangelo told jurors they would hear Trump in his own voice saying, “What do we have to pay for this?” One hour fifty?

Pecker is relevant to the case because prosecutors say he met with Trump and Cohen at Trump Tower in August 2015 and agreed to help Trump’s campaign identify negative stories about him.

He described the tabloid’s use of “checkbook journalism,” a practice of paying a source for a story.

“I gave a number to editors that they couldn’t spend more than $10,000” on an article without getting his approval, he said.

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Tucker reported from Washington.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of former President Donald Trump at https://apnews.com/hub/donald-trump.

News Source : apnews.com
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With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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