Donald Trump’s criminal trial begins Monday

Donald Trump has been fighting vigorously for months, using multiple appeals, to prevent this from happening. Without success.

On Monday, the populist will face a pivotal moment in his political career as he enters a court in Manhattan, New York, to face a criminal trial. A first, for a former president, in the history of the country.

This face-to-face with the justice system, which must begin on April 15 with the selection of the jury, should last several weeks, thus placing the Republican candidate for the presidential election next November in the uncomfortable position of the accused. in a courtroom. And this posture, which the tribune will certainly seek to take advantage of to mobilize his radicalized electoral base, could as much taint his electoral trajectory as bring him closer to a cell in the Rikers Island prison complex. Recall of facts…

What is Donald Trump accused of?

In total, the former President of the United States faces 34 counts brought against him by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for attempting to conceal the payment of a bribe to ex-pornographic actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign. The money aimed to buy his silence on an adulterous relationship that he allegedly had with her between 2006 and 2007 and the revelation of which could have harmed his electoral campaign in ‘era.

According to the indictment, the transaction was overseen by Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen — who has since turned against the ex-president. He allegedly concealed the payment of a sum of $130,000 intended for the ex-actress in a series of invoices falsely recorded in the accounting books of the Trump Organization as legal expenses, all for an amount of $420,000 including a substantial compensation for the lawyer.

Donald Trump pleaded not guilty, arguing, through his lawyers, that the payment of the money to Stormy Daniels had been made within a legal framework and aimed to protect the Republican candidate’s family against the disclosure of embarrassing information.

However, for the New York justice system, it is rather a stratagem which, through the falsification of commercial documents, did more than buy the silence of Ms. Daniels. He also allegedly made a contribution to Trump’s election campaign by exceeding legal limits and sought to influence the 2016 election through illegal means, in addition to violating state tax laws.

The fact that Donald Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen when he entered the White House, after his victory in 2016, and the way in which he did it, through several reimbursements from the ex-president’s personal account , amounts to fraud according to the Manhattan prosecutor.

Mr. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 after pleading guilty to charges of fraudulent campaign contributions, in connection with this bribe payment, but also for lying to Congress to protect his ex -boss.

Who will be called to the witness stand?

For his role as financial matchmaker between the ex-president and the ex-pornographic actress, Michael Cohen should be one of the key witnesses in this trial, and his presence in the courtroom should last several days. But he won’t be alone.

Manhattan district attorneys expected to call ex-magazine publisher David Pecker to the stand National Enquirer, who has had close ties with Donald Trump for many years. New York justice is said to have in hand secret agreements concluded between the real estate mogul and the tabloid to buy the exclusivity of compromising stories for Donald Trump, with the sole aim of making them disappear from the public space. The tactic has a name in English: the “ catch and kill ”, or seize and destroy. It would have benefited a former doorman at Trump Tower who claimed that Trump had had a child out of wedlock, an assertion that the magazine deemed completely false after the payment of a sum of $30,000. THE National Enquirer also bought, during the 2016 election campaign, for $150,000 the story of the affair between the 1998 Playmate of the Year, Karen McDougal, and Donald Trump. To never publish it and thus do the Republican candidate a favor.

The court will thus seek to demonstrate that the Stormy Daniels case is not isolated.

People close to Donald Trump in the White House at the time of the events, including his long-time assistant, Rhona Graff, and former advisers Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway, could also be called to testify.

Will Donald Trump seek to campaign during this trial?

He has already started to do so, by multiplying appeals for weeks to have the trial date postponed and by publicly attacking the judge responsible for supervising the case, Juan Merchan, and the Manhattan prosecutor, Alvin Bragg. The strategy aims to fuel a discourse according to which he has become the victim of a “witch hunt” and of justice controlled by the Democrats, according to him, to prevent him from regaining his presidential chair in the Oval Office.

“On Monday, I will be forced to sit, gagged, in front of a very aggressive and corrupt judge, whose hatred towards me has no limits,” he wrote last Wednesday on his social network.

The relationship promises to be tense between the Manhattan court and the Republican candidate. Twice, the ex-president demanded that Judge Merchan recuse himself, citing the work of the magistrate’s daughter, Loren, in several communications agencies with links to elected Democratic officials. The request was rejected. The judge also imposed a gag order on the accused to prevent him from attacking his daughter, but also from making comments discrediting prosecutors and witnesses, before and during the trial. In his order, Juan Merchan cites Donald Trump’s “undisputed record” of attacks on people involved in the legal cases against him. An assessment to which the populist added a piece of evidence on Wednesday, by defying this order to treat Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels as “dirty debauchees who, with their lies and their false declarations, cost our country dearly”, he said. writing.

This trial is one of four criminal cases which accompany the ex-president in his new electoral campaign. In other courts, he is also accused of attempting to overturn the election in Georgia, conspiracy to commit insurrection and reckless manipulation of secret documents after leaving the White House.

This criminal trial which opens in New York on Monday is undoubtedly the first and only one that can be held before the November election, in the current state of the procedures.

If he is found guilty, what does the ex-president risk?

He risks big. In theory. Indeed, under New York law, each count carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison and a fine of $5,000. This puts him before the prospect of a possible, but unlikely, sentence of 136 years in prison and a $170,000 fine.

During the hearing, Judge Merchan indicated that he took “white-collar” crime very seriously, but he might not send Donald Trump behind bars, because of his age, 77, but also the The businessman’s lack of past convictions for similar crimes that would have made him a repeat offender.

Quoted by the Washington Post, Matthew Galluzzo, a former Manhattan prosecutor, said Trump’s chances of going to prison would increase if he publicly denigrates the jury or judge or fails to show remorse in the event of a verdict. of guilt.

“He risks prison if he loses heavily and if he does not respect the procedure by calling it a “witch hunt”, treating the judge as biased and repeating that he did nothing wrong,” he said. In that case, the judge could send him “90 days to Rikers Island” to see how he likes it, he added.

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