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Trump’s defence to make opening statement in ‘hush money’ trial | Donald Trump News

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Prosecutors and defence to lay out broad strokes arguments in what is an unprecedented trial against a former president.

Former United States President Donald Trump’s lawyers and prosecutors have begun their opening statements in the businessman-turned-politician’s trial into alleged hush money payments made to an adult film star.

The case marks the first time that prosecutors are presenting a criminal case against a former president to a jury, and the trial is taking place months before November’s US presidential election, in which Trump is expected to face off against incumbent Joe Biden.

The proceedings on Monday will see both sides lay out their arguments in broad strokes while simultaneously hinting at the legal strategies they plan to deploy in what is expected to be a six-week trial.

Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in what prosecutors allege was an effort to divert campaign donations to pay “hush money” to Stormy Daniels, who has alleged a sexual encounter with Trump.

Prosecutors have alleged the crimes were committed in tandem with a second crime to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election, which would elevate the misdemeanour violations to more serious felonies. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office asserts that Trump paid Daniels to buy her silence going into the final weeks of a tight race between Trump, a Republican, and the Democratic nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Speaking first on Monday, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said Trump “orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election”.

Trump then “covered up” that scheme in business records by “lying over and over again”, Colangelo said.

The defence team is likely to argue that the charges are politically motivated and the payments were the result of Trump seeking to head off a potentially embarrassing smear campaign. Trump has denied the affair.

The opening arguments come after a week of jury selection, in which 12 jurors and six alternates were seated. Those proceedings ended on Friday with a morbid scene outside the courthouse when a man set himself ablaze in a park across the street. He later died from the burns.

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting outside the courthouse on Monday morning, said one of the key witnesses in the case will be David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, a US tabloid. Daniels and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen are also expected to testify.

“The key question of course is whether or not Donald Trump himself will take the stand in his own defence. He has said that he will, but it remains to be seen,” Saloomey said.

“Most lawyers and legal scholars say that would be a bad idea because he would have to answer a lot of questions and could get himself into trouble.”

Trump took to his Truth Social platform on Monday morning, calling on his supporters to go out and “peacefully protest”.

“America Loving Protesters should be allowed to protest at the front steps of Courthouses,” he said.

This is a developing story. 

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