Trump’s historic criminal trial begins

Donald Trump made history as the first former president to stand trial on criminal charges as his long-awaited hush-money trial began in New York today. The trial is expected to last at least six weeks and proceedings kicked off today with jury selection. This process is expected to take up to two weeks and Trump is required to attend the trial unless he receives a waiver from Judge Juan Merchan.

Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of his effort to bury stories he feared could hurt his 2016 campaign. Trump is accused of trying to cover up a $130,000 hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. Daniels claims she and Trump had sex in 2006, and she was then paid by Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen to stay quiet about it. Trump is accused of falsifying his business records by saying the reimbursement money he gave Cohen was for legal fees. Trump denies any legal wrongdoing and also denies having an affair with Daniels.

The charge carries up to four years in prison, but if convicted, the decision on whether he will spend time behind bars would be up to the judge. To win on the felony charge, prosecutors must show that Trump not only falsified or caused business records to be entered falsely, which would be a misdemeanor, but also that he did so with intent to commit or conceal a second crime.

While it’s known as the “hush money” trial, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has said this case is about election interference. He alleges that the $130,000 payment was part of a wider scheme enacted by Trump and his allies from 2015 to 2017 to keep damaging information from voters.

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