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Trump schemed to corrupt 2016 election, prosecutor says in hush money trial – Times of India

WorldTrump schemed to corrupt 2016 election, prosecutor says in hush money trial - Times of India



NEW YORK: A New York prosecutor on Monday told a jury that Donald Trump‘s hush money payment to a porn star broke the law by deceiving voters shortly before the 2016 election, as the first-ever criminal trial of a former US president got under way.
“This case is about conspiracy of fraud,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said. “The defendant, Donald Trump, orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election.”
He told the jury that they would hear Trump working out the details of the scheme in his own voice on recorded conversations.
Lawyers for the Republican presidential candidate will also make their opening statement in what may be the only one of Trump’s four criminal prosecutions to go to trial before his Nov. 5 election rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.
Colangelo told jurors that Trump engaged in a “catch and kill” conspiracy with his former lawyer Michael Cohen and tabloid publisher David Pecker to cover up unflattering information about Trump and help him defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
That included payments to women who said they had sexual encounters with Trump, including a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, at a time when he was facing other revelations of sexual misbehavior, he said.
As the trial opened, Justice Juan Merchan ruled that prosecutors would be able to ask Trump, if he testifies, about two other court cases: one that found he fraudulently misstated the value of his real estate assets, and another that found he defamed writer E. Jean Carroll after she accused him of rape.
Merchan also said prosecutors would be able to show jurors a transcript of a tape from the ‘Access Hollywood’ TV show in which Trump makes vulgar comments about grabbing women’s genitals, though jurors will not be allowed to see the tape itself.
Wearing a blue tie and dark blue suit, Trump stared at the judge and occasionally spoke to his lawyer. A Secret Service agent wearing an earpiece sat directly behind him.
Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsification of business records brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and denies having had a sexual encounter with Daniels.
The case is seen by many legal experts as the least consequential of the Trump prosecutions. A guilty verdict would not bar him from taking office, but it could hurt his candidacy.
Reuters/Ipsos polling shows half of independent voters and one in four Republicans say they would not vote for Trump if he is convicted of a crime.
‘Catch and kill’
Colangelo said Trump disguised his reimbursements to Cohen as legal expenses through 11 falsified invoices, 12 falsified ledger entries, and 11 falsified checks.
“Those were lies. There was no retainer agreement, Cohen was not being paid for legal services,” Colangelo said. “The defendant falsified those business records because he wanted to conceal his and others’ criminal conduct.”
Pecker is the first witness prosecutors plan to call after opening statements, the New York Times and CNN reported on Sunday. According to prosecutors, Pecker agreed during an August 2015 meeting with Trump and Cohen to act as the campaign’s “eyes and ears” by looking out for negative stories about Trump.
“Pecker was not acting as a publisher, he was acting as a co-conspirator,” Colangelo said.
American Media, which published the National Enquirer, in 2018 admitted that it paid $150,000 to former Playboy magazine model Karen McDougal for rights to her story about a months-long affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. American Media said it worked “in concert” with Trump’s campaign, and it never published a story.
“The evidence will show that the defendant desperately did not want this info about Karen McDougal to become public because he was worried about its impact on the election,” Colangelo said.
The tabloid reached a similar deal to pay $30,000 to a doorman who was seeking to sell a story about Trump allegedly fathering a child out of wedlock, which turned out to be false, according to prosecutors.
Trump has said the payments were personal and did not violate election law. He has also denied the affair with McDougal.
In the New York trial, Trump is charged with falsely recording his 2017 reimbursement of Cohen for the Daniels payment as a legal expense in his real estate company’s books. Prosecutors say he did so to conceal the fact that Cohen’s payment exceeded the $2,700 limit on individual campaign contributions at the time.
Testimony about those payments could help prosecutors establish that Cohen’s payment to Daniels was part of a broader pattern.
Prosecutors plan to call at least 20 witnesses total, according to Trump’s defense team. The trial could last six to eight weeks.
Before the trial began Monday, Trump called for supporters to protest peacefully at courthouses “all over the Country,” but few were on hand to greet him when he arrived at the downtown courthouse. Trump suggested tight security measures were responsible for the sparse turnout, but the streets surrounding the courthouse were open to the public.
“Lower Manhattan surrounding the Courthouse, where I am heading now, is completely CLOSED DOWN. SO UNFAIR!!!” he wrote on social media.
Trump faces three other criminal indictments stemming from his efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat and his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House in 2021.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in those cases, and he portrays all of them as a broad-based effort by Biden’s Democratic allies to undercut his campaign.
Merchan, who is overseeing the hush money trial, imposed a limited gag order on Trump after he criticized witnesses, prosecutors, the judge and his daughter. Prosecutors are pressing Merchan to penalize Trump for violating that order.





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