Trump’s hush money trial: Things to know

Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the trial of former President Donald Trump, who is accused of falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments aimed at hiding allegations of an extramarital affair he had before the 2016 presidential election.

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The trial makes Trump the first former U.S. president to face a criminal trial. It comes as he faces three other criminal trials in Georgia, Florida and Washington, D.C.

Here are some things to know about the case in New York:

What are the charges against Trump?

In March 2023, a grand jury in Manhattan voted to indict Trump on 34 counts of first-degree falsifying business records with the “intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof.”

Prosecutors said Trump falsified business records in 2017 to hide payments that he made to his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to keep adult film star Stormy Daniels quiet about a sexual encounter she claims she had with Trump years earlier.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said the payments were part of a “catch and kill” scheme aimed at halting negative coverage of Trump before the 2016 presidential election.

What has Trump said about the charges?

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and characterized the case as politically motivated as the 2024 presidential election looms. Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president and was long the GOP front-runner before that.

Before pleading not guilty to charges last year, Trump said it “Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME.”

“Can’t believe this is happening in America,” he added. “MAGA!”

He later told a crowd, “The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.”

Are hush money payments illegal?

Typically, not on their own.

Bragg has said that the payments were illegal in this case because they were made “to cover up actual crime committed” ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Under New York law, it’s a crime to conspire to promote a candidacy by unlawful means.

What about the other alleged hush money payments?

Bragg said Trump also paid hush money to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and a Trump Tower doorman as part of the scheme aimed at getting him into the White House.

“During and in furtherance of his candidacy for President, the Defendant and others agreed to identify and suppress negative stories about him,” prosecutors said in a statement of facts unsealed last year. “Two parties to this agreement have admitted to committing illegal conduct in connection with the scheme.”

In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws. He admitted to submitting false invoices to the Trump Organization to get reimbursement for unlawful campaign contributions made in the form of payments to Daniels and McDougal. He said in federal court that he coordinated with Trump to make the payments, which were aimed at influencing the election.

Officials with media company American Media Inc., which owns the National Enquirer, said in a non-prosecution agreement that same year that it made a payment to McDougal to ensure that she “did not publicize damaging allegations” about Trump “before the 2016 presidential election and thereby influence that election,” according to prosecutors and previous reports.

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