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Jurors in Trump criminal case told that he lied ‘over and over and over’

He told the jurors that Cohen paid porn actor Stormy Daniels $130,000 to buy her silence as the 2016 campaign was winding down and was reimbursed by Trump, who is accused of falsifying business records related to the reimbursement.
Last Updated : 22 April 2024, 17:14 IST
Last Updated : 22 April 2024, 17:14 IST

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New York: Prosecutors in the first criminal trial of a former US president began laying out their case for a jury of 12 New Yorkers on Monday, saying Donald Trump lied “over and over and over” to cover up a sex scandal as part of conspiracy to get him elected president in 2016.

“This case is about a criminal conspiracy and a coverup,” Matthew Colangelo, one of the prosecutors for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, told the jury. He described how Trump, his longtime counsel Michael Cohen, and tabloid publisher David Pecker “formed a conspiracy” to bury damaging stories — including the account of a porn actor who said she had once had a sexual encounter with Trump.

He told the jurors that Cohen paid porn actor Stormy Daniels $130,000 to buy her silence as the 2016 campaign was winding down and was reimbursed by Trump, who is accused of falsifying business records related to the reimbursement.

“The defendant falsified those business records because he wanted to conceal his and others criminal conduct,” Colangelo told the jury. Trump’s willingness to go to the trouble, he added, “shows just how important it was to him to hide the true nature of Cohen’s illegal payment to Ms. Daniels and the overall election conspiracy that they had launched.”

Cohen, who was an executive vice president at the Trump Organization and counsel to Trump, and Pecker are expected to be central witnesses.

Todd Blanche, the lead defense lawyer, began his presentation by declaring, “President Trump is innocent.” He continued, “President Trump did not commit any crimes.”

The defense is expected to try to poke holes in the account offered by the district attorney’s office and will most likely focus on Cohen, calling him a serial liar with an ax to grind against Trump.

Colangelo insisted that much of Cohen’s testimony would be corroborated, including by witnesses from The National Enquirer and “an extensive paper trail.”

Here’s what else to know about the trial as it begins in earnest:

— The Manhattan criminal case against Trump was unveiled a year ago by District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Trump was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records and if convicted could face up to four years in prison. It is the former president’s first criminal trial — he has been indicted three other times in three other cities. With those other cases tied up in appeals and other delays, the Manhattan case may be the only one he faces before the 2024 presidential election. The trial is expected to last six weeks.

— Before opening statements, the judge overseeing the case delivered a crucial ruling that determined what prosecutors can question Trump about should he decide to take the stand in his own defense. The ruling, a significant victory for prosecutors that might prompt Trump to decide not to testify, allows them to question him about several recent losses he suffered in unrelated civil trials, including a fraud case this year in which the former president was found liable for conspiring to manipulate his net worth and was penalized $454 million.

— The jury was drawn from a pool of residents of Manhattan, where Trump is deeply unpopular; during jury selection, dozens of prospective jurors were excused because they said they could not be impartial. But the jurors who were selected each pledged to decide the case based only on the facts.

— The case will receive vast media attention, but the proceedings won’t be shown on television.

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Published 22 April 2024, 17:14 IST

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