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Defense to New York Jury: Donald Trump Is 'Innocent'

By    |   Monday, 22 April 2024 01:20 PM EDT

Donald Trump did not commit any crimes, his lawyer said Monday in a New York criminal trial that will determine whether the former president falsified business records to cover up a payment to buy a porn star's silence during the 2016 election.

"There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It’s called democracy. They put something sinister on this idea, as if it’s a crime,” Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said.

The lawyer called Trump “innocent” and said the Manhattan district attorney's office “should never have brought this case.”

Blanche spoke shortly after prosecutors argued that Trump broke the law by deceiving voters.

“This case is about a conspiracy and a cover-up, an illegal conspiracy to undermine the integrity of a presidential election, and then the steps that Donald Trump took to conceal that illegal election fraud,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said.

Colangelo told the jury that they would hear Trump working out the details of the scheme in his own voice on recorded conversations.

Both lawyers made their opening statements in what may be the only one of Trump's four criminal prosecutions to go to trial before his Nov. 5 election rematch with his Democrat opponent, 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.

Bragg's office last year charged Trump with falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 payment that Cohen made to Daniels in the waning days of the 2016 campaign for her silence about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

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, the Republican presidential candidate stared at the judge and occasionally spoke to his lawyer. A Secret Service agent wearing an earpiece sat directly behind him.

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.


Colangelo said Trump falsified checks, invoices and other documents to disguise his reimbursements to Cohen as legal expenses. Those payments totaled $420,000 in all, a sign that the tight-fisted Trump was desperate to cover up his conduct, Colangelo said.

Pecker, 72, was the first witness prosecutors called after opening statements. He explained the basics of tabloid journalism and said his company often paid for stories. He did not discuss his interactions with Trump but is expected to return on Tuesday for more questioning.

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 claim she had an with Trump in 2006 and 2007. American Media said it worked "in concert" with Trump's campaign, and it never published a story.

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 also has 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, 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.

"Unlike at Columbia University where the Radical Left Palestinian Protesters sat on the Front Lawn, practically took over the School, and screamed, 'Death to the Jews, Death to Israel, Death to America,' and nothing happened to them, 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.

Judge Merchan, who is overseeing the current 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.

The report contains information from Reuters and The Associated Press.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Donald Trump did not commit any crimes, his lawyer said Monday in a New York criminal trial that will determine whether the former president falsified business records to cover up a payment to buy a porn star's silence during the 2016 election."There's nothing wrong with...
trump, new york, criminal, trial
Monday, 22 April 2024 01:20 PM
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