The Trump investigation into the “hush money” case is underway with preliminary reports and the first witness

Jurors in Ex-Pres Criminal investigation of Donald Trump In New York on Monday, both sides got a first glimpse of the arguments they plan to make during the historic proceedings, as the prosecution and defense teams made their opening statements as Trump looked on.

Prosecutors called their first witness to the stand: David Becker, of American Media Inc. Former CEO of or National Enquirer's parent company AMI. The government alleges Becker helped Trump during the 2016 campaign by burying negative stories about Trump and attacking his rivals.

Becker testified for less than half an hour before court adjourned for the day. He will resume testimony on Tuesday after a hearing on whether Trump should be held in contempt of court for defying a judge's strictures in the case.

Trump has been indicted 34 offences Falsified business records to cover up “hush money” payments before the 2016 election. He is innocent. A lawyer from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office said the repayments were part of an “election fraud, pure and simple” scheme. Trump's lawyer argued that his client had committed no crime and said he was charged based on flimsy evidence from an unreliable key witness.

In court, Trump said the investigation was “election interference” and part of an effort to keep him off the campaign trail. He called the case a “witch hunt” and a “disgrace”.

Because New York law does not allow recording of criminal proceedings, the proceedings were not televised. CBS News reporters watched the proceedings in the courtroom and in an overflow room nearby.

Prosecutors' opening statement

Former President Donald Trump during his arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court on April 22, 2024.

Angela Weiss/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Prosecutors from the Prague office had 40 minutes to present their opening statements, and Trump's lawyers 25 minutes. Matthew Colangelo, a member of the Bragg team, made the central allegations in the case and opened the case for prosecution.

Days before the 2016 election, Trump's attorney at the time, Michael Cohen, paid the adult film star $130,000. Stormy Daniels To keep silent about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump several years ago. Trump denies the meeting.

Cohen “made the payment at the defendant's direction and did so to influence the election,” Colangelo said. Trump portrayed the payment as part of a plan by Cohen and Becker to bury negative stories about Trump and attack his rivals. Colangelo said the plan was hatched in a 2015 meeting at Trump Tower.

“The two of them conspired together to influence the 2016 presidential election,” Colangelo told the jury, adding that Becker agreed to act as Trump's “eyes and ears” during the 2016 campaign. Becker is expected to be the first witness called by the prosecution after opening statements.

Colangelo devised a “catch and kill” tactic allegedly used by Becker and Dylan Howard, the editor of the Enquirer, to protect Trump from negative stories. The practice involves buying the rights to one's story, refusing to publish the account, and hiding it. They used the Enquirer to publish false stories about Trump's rivals.

Prosecutors allege that AMI, the Enquirer's parent company, engaged in a “catch-and-kill” tactic twice before paying Daniels. An example is paying a former Playboy model $150,000 for the rights to her story. Model Karen McDougall has also been accused of having an affair with Trump, which she denies. Colangelo told jurors he heard Cohen promise to set up a shell company to buy the rights to McDougall's story.

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, Daniels' lawyer approached the Enquirer about selling the rights to his story as well, Colangelo said. According to prosecutors, Howard contacted the attorney with Cohen, who negotiated a $130,000 payment. Colangelo said Trump hoped to delay the deal until after the election and then never pay. Cohen eventually transferred the money to Daniels' attorney a few days before Election Day.

“This was a planned, coordinated, long-term conspiracy to influence the 2016 election to help Donald Trump get elected,” Colangelo told the jury. “This is election fraud, pure and simple.”

Trump reimbursed Cohen for payments in 12 monthly installments during the first year of his presidency, portraying the legal services as checks in an illegal scheme, according to prosecutors. Cohen ultimately received $420,000 — more than double the $130,000 he paid Daniels.

“Donald Trump was a very frugal businessman. He believed in pinching pennies. He believed in watching every dollar. He believed in haggling over every bill. Trump ran the system in total control. You'll hear testimony of his unrelenting focus on the bottom line. With Cohen and the 'catch and kill' deal, he priced “He didn't cut it, he doubled it,” Colangelo said. “You will ask for proof that the Trump organization is not in the practice of paying twice what they should be paying for anything.”

Security Statement

Trump's attorney, Todd Blanche, gave the defense's opening statement after Colangelo. The jury is “going to find that this is not a payback,” he said.

“Think for a moment what people have told you. President Trump didn't pay back Mr. Cohen $130,000. President Trump paid Michael Cohen $420,000,” Blanche said as Trump looked at him. “Would a thrifty businessman, 'pinching pennies' pay off a $130,000 loan to $420,000?”

He said Cohen did not reimburse Daniels for the $35,000 he received each month for his services as Trump's personal attorney. He argued that Trump “had nothing to do with the 34 pieces of paper, other than signing them in the White House, when he was running the country.” Each charge in the indictment represents a record created to document a payment to Cohen.

“There's nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It's called democracy. There's something sinister about the idea, like it's a crime,” Blanche continued. “President Trump fought as he always does and as he deserves to do. To protect his family, his reputation and his brand. That's not a crime.”

Blanch said Cohen is “obsessed” with Trump and has been for “many, many years.” When he was arrested on federal charges in 2018, he argued that Cohen decided to “blame President Trump for all his problems.”

“He's talked extensively about President Trump going to jail. He's talked extensively about wanting to see President Trump's family go to jail,” Blanch said.

“He has a goal and an obsession with getting Trump,” he continued, “and I submit to you that he cannot be trusted.”

Blanche later noted that Cohen had lied under oath and claimed Daniels had a grudge against Trump for not being cast on “The Apprentice” in 2007. Blanch said Daniels profited from her accusations.

“Let me say something else about her testimony: It doesn't matter,” Blanche said, telling jurors she “knew nothing” about the alleged crimes at the center of the case. “Her testimony, however valuable, is irrelevant.”

Finally, he reverted to the “catch and kill” tactic, saying it was neither illegal nor conspiratorial.

“It's not a plan, a plan doesn't matter, it's not illegal, it's not against the law,” Blanch said.

Testimony of David Becker

On the stand, Becker testified extensively about AMI's operations and Howard's role as editor-in-chief of the National Enquirer. Becker left the company in 2020.

Under questioning by prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, Becker said he finally had to tell what Steinglass described as particularly “juicy” stories.

“We used checkbook journalism,” Becker said, explaining how editors were authorized to spend up to $10,000 to source stories, but larger expenditures “had to be verified and brought to me for approval.”

Becker confirmed that Howard “operated a network of sources for all AMI's publications.”

“As the editor of a tabloid magazine, you build up a team of sources over the years, and the sources are people who work in hotels, who work for lawyers, who work for various aspects that a celebrity uses. — like a limousine service, for example.”

Becker said he heard that Howard was now living in his native Australia.

After less than 30 minutes, Merson adjourned court for the day and asked jurors not to discuss the case outside court.

“Please put the case out of your mind,” he said. “Don't think about it. Don't talk about it. Don't read anything about it.”

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