The Citizen (KZN)

Trump’s stormy waters

Hush money allegedly paid to shield 2016 election campaign. ACCUSED OF FALSIFYING BUSINESS RECORDS TO HIDE AFFAIR

- New York Truth Social.

Donald Trump’s New York criminal trial opened yesterday in a historic first for a US ex-president and a seismic twist to an already explosive 2024 presidenti­al election, where the scandal-plagued Republican is seeking to return to power.

“Good morning Mr Trump,” Judge Juan Merchan said to the defendant in the courtroom, where the Republican sat with a stern expression.

Jury selection was due to start shortly, but given the notoriety of the case it could take as much as two weeks for defence lawyers and prosecutor­s to agree on the panel of 12 jurors.

Trump struck a defiant stance, telling a throng of journalist­s on arrival at the gritty Manhattan courthouse that his trial was an “outrage” and an “assault on America”. He then strode into the courtroom and took his seat.

The 77 year old is accused of falsifying business records to cover up an alleged extramarit­al sexual encounter with adult film actress Stormy Daniels to shield his 2016 election campaign from a last-minute upheaval.

The so-called hush money affair

is one of four criminal cases hanging over Trump, including historic prosecutio­ns against the Republican’s alleged attempts to subvert the 2020 election and prevent the winner, Joe Biden, from taking office.

If convicted in the hush money case, Trump would potentiall­y face years in prison, but legal observers consider this unlikely.

Even so, the prospect of Trump becoming a convicted felon throws an unpreceden­ted wild card into an already unpredicta­ble November election, where he wants to defeat Biden and retake the White House.

The hard-right populist is running on dark vows of “vengeance” and seeking to spin his criminal cases as evidence of persecutio­n.

Yesterday, his campaign released a video portraying Trump

with the trappings of the presidency and warning his supporters that “they want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedoms”.

Trump said last week that he will take the stand in the trial – a highly unusual and often risky move for defendants.

For jury selection, a pool of ordinary citizens convened by Merchan must answer a questionna­ire including checks on whether they have been members of far-right groups.

The actual charges revolve around highly technical finance laws. Trump is accused of illegally covering up remittance­s to his longtime attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, who was using the funds to pay Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about the alleged sexual encounter in the final weeks of the 2016 election campaign.

A New York grand jury indicted Trump in March 2023, over the payments made to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, with the ex-president charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records.

He denies the charges and says the encounter with Clifford and another with a Playboy nude model, whose story he also allegedly covered up, did not happen.

Trump also claims he will not get a fair trial in heavily Democratic New York. Even if convicted, he would be able to appeal and would not be barred from continuing to run, or even being elected president on 5 November.

Trump’s other three criminal cases – centered on his alleged hoarding of top-secret documents in Florida after he left the White House and his involvemen­t in attempts to overturn the 2020 election – all face multiple delays.

In the New York case, Trump has repeatedly failed to secure meaningful delays, and Merchan has signalled he will run the trial with a firm hand.

Last week, the judge extended an existing gag order, in place to prevent Trump from attacking those involved in the trial, widening it to cover family members of the judge and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the lead prosecutor. This came after Trump lashed out at Merchan and his daughter on

 ?? Picture: AFP ?? ‘OUTRAGE’. Former US president Donald Trump at the first day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarit­al affairs in New York City yesterday.
Picture: AFP ‘OUTRAGE’. Former US president Donald Trump at the first day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarit­al affairs in New York City yesterday.

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