Trump trial opening statements to begin Monday in NY hush money case

US News

Former U.S. President Donald Trump sits in Manhattan Criminal Court for his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments, in New York City on April 19, 2024.

Spencer Platt | Via Reuters

Opening statements in the New York criminal hush money trial of former president Donald Trump will begin Monday morning, a judge said.

“This trial is starting,” said Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan on Friday.

Merchan set that schedule after a full panel of 12 jurors and six alternates was seated for the historic trial.

On Friday afternoon, Trump’s attorneys asked a Manhattan appeals court to delay the trial while they seek to move the case to a new venue.

They argued that Trump cannot receive a fair and impartial jury in New York City — even though a jury had been successfully selected that same day.

The appeals court swiftly denied the request.

Outside the courtroom, Trump — who says the six-week trial is keeping him from campaigning against President Joe Biden — complained that Merchan is moving the proceedings along “as fast as possible.”

The judge is doing so “for his reasons, not my reasons,” Trump claimed, calling the case a “witch hunt.”

The completion of the four-day jury selection process was punctuated by a shocking scene just outside the courthouse, where a man set himself on fire.

New York Police Department Chief Jeffrey Maddrey in a press briefing Friday afternoon said that the man walked into a park across from the building, opened a bookbag and threw out pamphlets espousing an array of conspiracies. He then pulled out a canister apparently containing a liquid accelerant, which he poured on himself before lighting himself on fire.

The man is in critical condition at a nearby hospital’s burn center, authorities said.

Max Azzarello’s mug shot from August 21, 2023.

St. Johns County Sheriff’s Department

The incident occurred as the trial court broke for lunch. Trump returned to the courtroom before 3:30 p.m. ET.

Similar to the previous three trial days, Friday’s efforts to fill the jury box for the unprecedented criminal trial was not always straightforward.

Some potential jurors were dismissed after saying they could not be impartial in the case involving the former president. At least three people said they were suffering from anxiety or “self-doubt” at the prospect of having to serve on the jury.

After the parties returned from the lunch break, Merchan held a so-called Sandoval hearing, which is aimed to inform Trump about what his prosecutors could grill him on if he decides to testify under oath.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said that if Trump takes the stand, they want to challenge his credibility by asking him about his various other legal battles, including two high-profile civil judgments he has been ordered to pay in New York.

Trump in February was ordered to pay $454 million in fines and interest after a state judge found him liable for fraudulently inflating his asset values to boost his net worth and obtain financial perks.

In a January verdict in New York federal civil court, Trump was ordered to pay $83 million to writer E. Jean Carroll for defaming her when he denied her claims that he raped her in the dressing room of a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. A separate federal jury previously found Trump liable for sexually abusing Carroll.

Trump is appealing both the business fraud and defamation verdicts. Merchan said he will determine Monday morning whether Bragg’s intended line of questioning is permissible.

Trump has said that he would testify in the hush money trial. He is not required to do so.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has fumed that the trial is a “scam” and a “witch hunt” aimed to damage his electoral chances against President Joe Biden.

Read more about Trump’s hush money trial

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to cover up a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, who says she had sex with Trump while he was married years ago.

The payment from Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen was aimed to influence the 2016 presidential election by burying damaging information from voters, Bragg alleges. Trump has denied having sex with Daniels.

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