New York will host Historic hush-money trial of Donald Trump

On Monday, Donald Trump will make an appearance at a New York courthouse, marking a historic moment as the first former US president to face trial in a criminal case.

He allegedly manipulated his business records to conceal a payment made to Stormy Daniels, a former adult film star, just prior to the 2016 election.

Mr Trump, 77, could potentially face a maximum of four years in jail if found guilty. However, there is a possibility that he may receive a fine instead of serving time behind bars.

He maintains his innocence.

Mr Trump’s upcoming trial will coincide with his presidential campaign, potentially resulting in serious consequences for the presumptive Republican nominee just months before the November elections.

“It’s truly remarkable,” remarked Alex Keyssar, a distinguished professor of history and public policy at Harvard University’s prestigious Kennedy School. “There hasn’t been anything even remotely similar to it.”

The trial is set to commence on Monday with jury selection. It is anticipated to span six to eight weeks and will focus on a reimbursement made by Mr. Trump to his former fixer, Michael Cohen.

Cohen, 57, alleges that he was instructed to provide Ms Daniels with a payment of $130,000 (£104,000) to ensure her silence regarding an alleged affair with Mr Trump. Prosecutors have characterised this as an effort to improperly sway the outcome of the 2016 election.

There is no illegality associated with hush money payments. However, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, it is claimed that Mr. Trump may have committed a crime by recording the reimbursement to Cohen as legal expenses in an improper manner.

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Altogether, he faces a staggering 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. In order to reach a verdict, the unanimous agreement of all 12 jurors is required to determine whether Mr. Trump is guilty or not guilty of a specific charge.

The trial in Manhattan is anticipated to showcase a captivating array of individuals central to the case, such as Cohen, Ms Daniels, and Mr Trump’s personal lawyer who faced imprisonment due to the scandal.

Opinions among experts vary regarding the prosecution’s case, which utilises a unique legal strategy to pursue felony charges related to the falsification of business records.

Mr. Trump has made multiple unsuccessful attempts to postpone the jury trial and relocate it from Manhattan, which is primarily composed of Democrats.

His passionate comments about the case, which he has consistently portrayed as driven by political motives, prompted the judge to issue a gag order preventing him from publicly discussing individuals involved in the case, including witnesses.

The order was extended after Mr Trump directed his online criticism towards the judge’s daughter, referring to her as a “Rabid Trump Hater”.

The Trump campaign argued that the gag order infringed upon his constitutional rights and curtailed his freedom of speech.

This criminal case is just one of four legal matters that Donald Trump is currently dealing with. However, it might be the sole trial held prior to his 2024 election rematch against President Joe Biden.

According to experts, it is unlikely for Mr. Trump to go to prison even if he is convicted, considering that he is a first-time offender. Regardless of the circumstances, according to US law, he would still be eligible to serve as president.

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According to Mr Keyssar, this would be the first instance of a felon running for president as a major-party nominee.

“It’s quite astonishing that a considerable portion of the electorate remains unfazed by this,” observed Mr. Keyssar, highlighting the fact that Mr. Trump’s popularity has remained unaffected despite facing criminal indictments.

However, the upcoming court drama will undoubtedly thrust him into the spotlight as the election draws near.

According to Georgetown University government Professor Hans Noel, the increased focus on current events could potentially impact the competition between the former and current president. This means that even minor updates from the court, whether favourable or unfavourable for Mr. Trump, could have significance.

“I anticipate this election to be highly contested,” he remarked, “where even the slightest detail could have an impact.”

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