Answers to the hush money trial: Trump must be present, he faces years in prison

Answers to the hush money process
Trump has to be present, he faces years in prison

By Roland Peters

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Did Donald Trump try to cover up his hush money payments to various women for campaign reasons? This is what the public prosecutor claims. The ex-president pretends to be innocent. Questions and answers about the historical criminal trial.

The first trial against an ex-president in US history has begun in New York. First, the jury is chosen: twelve people from hundreds of candidates. They will form the jury that will find Donald Trump guilty or innocent in a few weeks. Before his election in 2016, did the ex-president cover up the hush money that he paid, among others, to the porn actress Stephanie Clifford alias Stormy Daniels? According to the indictment, Trump falsified documents about payments to her and others in at least 34 cases. The ex-president denies the allegations.

How is jury selection going?

The candidates are summoned and informed about the prosecution and defense by Judge Juan Merchan. In other trials, potential jurors must explain why they would be biased or believe they are biased and therefore do not want to participate. This time, however, it’s different: Anyone who doubts can simply leave. According to Merchan, the usual route would take too much time and be of no use.

The judge asks the remaining candidates what work they do, what family situation they are in and what media they consume. Were you at one of Trump’s campaign events? Do you follow him on social media? Are you a member of a militia? It is intended to prevent jurors from later deciding on the question of guilt for ideological reasons or conflicts of interest. It will take several days until the jury is chosen.

What tactics are Trump’s lawyers using?

Trump’s defenders are fighting with every legal bandage they can find. They question every piece of evidence, every possible delay in the process is explored or exploited. They have so far been successful in the other three court cases against Trump, but none of them may be brought to trial before the presidential election in November. Things are different in New York. Last week they tried three times unsuccessfully to delay the start of the trial with applications.

According to the Washington Post, Trump’s lawyers are also pursuing another tactic in the hush money trial: they are denying it. In particular, it concerns conversations that could prove Trump’s involvement. The public prosecutor’s office argues in its lawsuit that Trump did not have hush money declared as a campaign expense, but rather as legal fees. Accordingly, the payments were intended to be covered up for tactical reasons with a view to the 2016 election. Trump wanted to hide criminal behavior from the public.

Who will testify against Trump?

Several familiar faces are likely to be called to the witness stand. Among them is Hope Hicks, Trump’s former press secretary. She denies any involvement in the hush money payments. Ex-employees of the Trump Organization will comment on this, such as the accountant Deborah Tarasoff, who is said to have organized the payments.

Two former executives of the US media “National Enquirer” are also expected to testify. They are said to have been involved in buying rights to a story about an affair with ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal just to keep it from being published. The key witness is Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, who has broken away from the ex-president. And last but not least, Trump himself will probably have to testify.

How long does the trial take and what does Trump face?

For weeks. The trial is expected to end by June, after which there will be a verdict. Trump must be present on all four days of the trial per week. If he disrupts the trial too much, the judge can have him removed from the courtroom. He could also request to stay away, but the prosecution has the opportunity to object.

If Trump sticks to his stance that he is innocent on all counts, the judge could ultimately interpret this negatively and sentence the designated Republican presidential candidate to a prison sentence of up to four years on each charge; New York has generally set an upper limit of 20 years for reported offenses. However, Trump’s punishment is unlikely to be that high. She can also be placed on probation.

How is the process covered by the media?

Television broadcasts and recordings during the court hearing are prohibited. The judge could make exceptions, but nothing is known about this so far. Before the trial, video recordings and photos may be taken in the courtroom in Manhattan. The US media will most likely report in detail about what happened in the courtroom, even without recordings.

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