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Trump hush money trial live updates: Hearing to determine if Trump is held in contempt

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(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York City, where he is facing felony charges related to a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. It marks the first time in history that a former U.S. president has been tried on criminal charges.

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Here’s how the news is developing:

Apr 23, 8:20 AM
Day 6 of trial to start with contempt hearing

Day 6 of Donald Trump’s criminal trial will begin with a hearing in front of Judge Juan Merchan in which prosecutors will seek to have the former president held in contempt for repeatedly violating the limited gag order in the case.

Prosecutors have argued that Trump violated the limited gag order — which prohibits statements about witnesses, jurors, and lawyers in the case other than Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg — on at least 10 separate occasions this month, and have asked the judge to hold him in contempt of court and fine him $10,000.

Trump’s lawyers have argued that prosecutors have not proven the posts in question were willful violations of the gag order, telling Merchan that the former president was defending himself from attacks by the likely witnesses.

Following the hearing, testimony in the hush money trial is scheduled to resume with former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker on the stand. Prosecutors believe he is key to understanding Trump’s motivation for paying off Stormy Daniels so damaging information did not seep into the 2016 campaign.

Apr 22, 1:28 PM
Trump, after court, says payments were correctly labeled

Moments after his criminal trial adjourned for the day, Donald Trump exited the courtroom and told reporters that his payments to Michael Cohen were appropriately labeled as legal expenses.

“Actually, nobody’s been able to say what you’re supposed to call it,” Trump told the media. “If the lawyer puts in a bill or an invoice and you pay the bill … that’s a very small little line … it’s not like you could tell a life story.”

“They marked it down for a legal expense. This is what I got indicted over,” Trump said.

The former president also attempted to paint his former attorney Michael Cohen as an unreliable witness and said he “wasn’t very good in a lot of ways” as an attorney.

Trump’s motorcade then departed the courthouse.

-Michael Pappano

Apr 22, 12:52 PM
Court wraps for day, Pecker to return tomorrow

David Pecker stepped off the witness stand after his initial testimony. He is scheduled to return to the witness stand tomorrow at 11 a.m. ET.

During his brief testimony, Pecker suggested that former National Enquirer Chief Content Officer Dylan Howard — an alleged participant in the catch-and-kill scheme alleged by prosecutors — will be unable to testify due to a medical condition.

Pecker appeared to greet Trump and his lawyers as he exited the courtroom.

Court subsequently wrapped for the day.

Trump left the courtroom flanked by Secret Service agents and staffers, as well as Trump Organization General Counsel Alan Garten.

Judge Merchan is scheduled to hold a contempt hearing about Trump’s alleged violations of the case’s limited gag order tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Apr 22, 12:27 PM
David Pecker takes the stand for prosecution

David Pecker, who once called Donald Trump “a personal friend of mine,” flashed a big smile as he took the stand as the trial’s first witness, belying the gravity of the moment.

Pecker cackled loudly into the microphone, jolting the room, when prosecutor Josh Steinglass, asked him about his various phone numbers that he struggled to remember.

Pecker, 72, was the publisher of the National Enquirer but prosecutors said he was “acting as a co-conspirator” in helping buy and bury damaging stories about Trump, including a doorman’s false claim that Trump had fathered a love child and a Playboy model’s claim of a sexual relationship with Trump, who has denied both allegations.

Trump, who once said Pecker would make a “brilliant” choice as editor of Time magazine, listened while leaning forward in his chair, arms crossed on the table, an unhappy look on his face.

Pecker testified that he had final say whether to publish any story involving a famous person.

“I had the final say of the celebrity side of the magazine,” Pecker said. “We used checkbook journalism. We paid for stories.”

Pecker is testifying pursuant to a subpoena. He has also secured a non-prosecution agreement with the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Apr 22, 12:10 PM
Prosecutors call David Pecker as 1st witness

Prosecutors have called former American Media Inc. executive David Pecker as their first witness.

The DA alleges that Pecker, who oversaw the National Enquirer, engaged in a conspiracy with Trump to help influence the 2016 election by killing negative stories about Trump.

Apr 22, 11:50 AM
Michael Cohen obsessed with ‘getting Trump,’ defense claims

In his opening statement, defense attorney Todd Blanche sought to eviscerate Michael Cohen’s credibility, saying Cohen is obsessed with Donald Trump, has a desire to see Trump incarcerated and has a propensity to lie.

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

On Sunday night, Cohen publicly posted online that he had a “mental excitement about this trial” and the testimony he would deliver, Blanche said.

“His entire financial livelihood depends on President Trump’s destruction,” Blanche said. “You cannot make a serious decision about President Trump by relying on the words of Michael Cohen.

Apr 22, 11:47 AM
Trump had ‘nothing to do,’ with invoices, defense says

“I have a spoiler alert,” defense attorney Todd Blanche told jurors during his opening statement. “There is nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It’s called democracy.”

Amid frequent objections from prosecutors, Blanche argued that the Manhattan district attorney has attempted to make the payments and non-disclosure agreements between Trump and Stormy Daniels “sinister” to the jury.

Judge Merchan had to interrupt Blanche’s opening after multiple objections from prosecutors, then he met the parties at a sidebar conference, after which he struck a line from Blanche’s opening.

“There is nothing illegal about entering into a non-disclosure agreement. Period,” Blanche restated after the portion of his opening was struck from the record.

Blanche’s opening has come off more casual and off-the-cuff than the state’s opening, with Blanche improvising and posing hypotheticals to argue that accountants at the Trump Organization did not run the invoices by Trump as he was “running the country.”

“‘Hey, we got this invoice. I know we are trying to cover it up here,"” Blanche said sarcastically about how prosecutors described how accountants received invoices from Cohen. “Absolutely not.”

According to Blanche, Trump was unaware of how the invoices were processed by his employees.

“President Trump has nothing to do — nothing to do — with the invoice, with the check being generated, or with the entry on the ledger,” Blanche said, arguing that Trump was busy “in the White House while he was running the country.”

“The reality is that President Trump is not on the hook — criminally responsible — for something Michael Cohen might have done years after the fact. The evidence will prove otherwise,” Blanche said.

Apr 22, 11:38 AM
‘None of this was a crime,’ defense attorney says

Donald Trump is “not just our former president, he’s not just Donald Trump that you’ve seen on TV,” said defense attorney Todd Blanche in his opening statement.

“He’s also a man. He’s a husband,” Blanche said. “He’s a father.”

Blanche pushed back on the DA’s overall allegation that the payments to Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen were weren’t only payback for Stormy Daniels by using the prosecutor’s own words against him.

Blanche noted that Cohen paid $130,000 to Daniels, but that Trump paid back Cohen a total of $420,000. If Trump really was a frugal businessman, as prosecutors said, why would he overpay that money, Blanche asked.

“Ask yourself, would a frugal businessman, a man who pinched his pennies, repay a $130,000 debt to the tune of $420,000?” Blanche asked.

Blanche repeatedly reiterated that Cohen truly was an attorney for Trump and was doing legal work for him, pointing out that Michael Cohen’s own email signature noted he was Trump’s attorney.

“None of this was a crime,” Blanche said, saying the 34 counts against Trump “are really just 34 pieces of paper.”

Apr 22, 11:30 AM
Trump ‘did not commit any crimes,’ defense tells jury

“President Trump is innocent. President Trump did not commit any crimes,” defense attorney Todd Blanche said to begin the defense’s opening statements.

“The Manhattan district attorney’s office should never have brought this case,” Blanche said.

“You will hear me and others refer to him as President Trump. That is a title he has earned because he was our 45th President,” Blanche added.
 

Apr 22, 11:26 AM
Prosecutor says jury can believe Cohen despite mistakes

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the jury, during his opening statement, “During this trial you’re going to hear a lot about Michael Cohen.”

Trump’s former personal attorney, Cohen is a key witness — perhaps the only one that will testify to Donald Trump’s intent when he agreed to pay Stormy Daniels hush money.

The defense “will go to great lengths” to convince the jury Cohen is not credible, Colangelo said.

He acknowledged that Cohen had earlier lied regarding the matter. “He lied about it to protect his boss,” Colangelo said. “You will also learn that Michael Cohen has a criminal record.”

Colangelo told jurors they can believe Cohen despite his past mistakes.

“Cohen’s testimony will be backed up by testimony from other witnesses you will hear from, including David Pecker, Keith Davidson. It will be backed up by an extensive paper trail. And it will be backed up by Donald Trump’s own words,” the prosecutor said.

Colangelo concluded by saying, “This case is about a criminal 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 election fraud. At the end of the case we are confident you will have no reasonable doubt that Donald Trump is guilty of falsifying business records.”

Apr 22, 11:16 AM
‘It was election fraud, pure and simple,’ prosecutor says

“It was election fraud, pure and simple,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the jury during opening statements as he outlined the hush payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and how it was logged by the Trump Organization

Dylan Howard, then editor of the National Enquirer, had called Trump attorney Michael Cohen to inform him about Daniels and the story that she had of a sexual liaison with Trump, which the former president has long denied.

“Cohen then discussed the situation with Trump who is adamant that he did not want the story to come out,” Colangelo said. “it could have been devastating to his campaign.”

At the time, Trump and the campaign were “deeply concerned” about the “Access Hollywood” video, the prosecutor said. Cohen wired the $130,000 to Daniels’ lawyer to keep her quiet.

“Cohen made that payment at Donald Trump’s direction and for his benefit and he did it with the special goal of influencing the election
This was not spin or communications strategy. This was a planned, coordinated long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election to help DT get elected through illegal expenditures to silence people who had something bad about his behavior. It was election fraud, pure and simple,” Colangelo said.

Apr 22, 11:10 AM
‘Access Hollywood’ tape was ‘explosive,’ prosecutors claim

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo read aloud part of the transcript of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape to jurors.

“You can do anything,” Colangelo slowly read to the jurors, quoting Trump from the tape. “Grab them by the p—-. You can do anything.”

According to Colangelo, the October 2016 release of the tape had an “immediate and explosive” impact on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

“Seeing and hearing a candidate in his own words, in his own voice, with his own body language … has a much greater impact on voters than words on paper,” Colangelo said. “The campaign went on immediate damage control mode to blunt the impact of the tape.”

The campaign was concerned about the impact it might have on Trump voters or even the possibility that Trump could lose the Republican nomination one month out from the election, according to Colangelo.

“The Republican National Committee even considered whether it was too late to replace their own nominee,” Colangelo said.

Apr 22, 11:04 AM
Trump, listening to openings, shakes his head

Former President Trump, sitting at the defense table, softly shook his head “no” when prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the jurors that Trump formed a “conspiracy” with Michael Cohen and David Pecker to “help him get elected.”

It was one of the most notable reactions from Trump as he sits and listens to prosecutors lay out their story of the case.

Colangelo then brought up the “Access Hollywood” tape and said it showed Trump “bragging about sexual assault,” Trump shook his head no again, pursing his lips. He did not react when Colangelo, quoting Trump on the tape, said, “grab them by the p—-.”

Earlier, as Colangelo brought up a former Trump doorman who was he said was paid off as part of the alleged catch-and-kill scheme, Trump — looking annoyed — leaned over and tapped his lawyer Todd Blanche. When Colangelo said the doorman was paid $30,000 to bury his story, Trump raised his eyebrows and grabbed onto a pen.

The former president has been passing notes and sliding papers between Blanche and attorney Emil Bove, and leaning side-to-side, whispering to them. Blanche at one point pulled out his own sticky note and slid a note back to Trump.

At other times he has hardly seemed engaged at all, slumping in his red leather chair looking straight forward with no facial expression, or fidgeting with his head tilting back and forth. At one point during jury instructions he let out a yawn.

Apr 22, 10:48 AM
Prosecutor alleges 3-prong conspiracy

“It starts with that August 2015 meeting in Trump Tower,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told jurors about the alleged conspiracy, in his opening statement.

Following a meeting between Donald Trump, his then-lawyer Michael Cohen, and AMI executive David Pecker, the three engaged in a three-prong conspiracy to help influence the 2016 election, according to Colangelo.

First, the National Enquirer would run “headline after headline that extolled the defendant’s virtues,” according to Colangelo.

“Pecker had the ultimate say over publication decisions,” Colangelo said, adding that Trump edited, killed, and suggested the cover of the magazine.

Second, the National Enquirer would run negative stories attacking Trump’s opponents in the 2016 Republican primary, such as attacks on Ben Caron or Marco Rubio.

Third, the “core of the conspiracy” was killing negative stories about Trump — evolving into the catch-and kill scheme, Colangelo said.

“The National Enquirer ran these stories as part of the conspiracy launched after the Trump Tower meeting,” he said.

Apr 22, 10:40 AM
‘This case is about a criminal conspiracy,’ prosecutor says

“This case is about a criminal conspiracy,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo began his opening statement in Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York.

“The defendant, Donald Trump, orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election,” the prosecutor said.

The utterance represents the first time a prosecutor has sought to implicate a former president in a crime at his trial.

Colangelo said Trump schemed with his attorney Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker “to influence the presidential election by concealing negative information about former President Trump.”

Trump slouched in his seat the defense table, listening.

“The defendant said in his business records that he was paying Cohen for legal services pursuant to a retainer agreement. But those were lies,” Colangelo said. “The defendant was paying him back for an illegal payment to Stormy Daniels on the eve of the election.”

Apr 22, 10:21 AM
Trump is ‘presumed to be innocent,’ judge tells jury

Donald Trump faced forward and did not appear to make eye contact with any jurors as they entered the courtroom and took their seats in the jury box.

Before any of the lawyers in the case could speak a word, Judge Merchan launched into a lengthy speech outlining how the trial will work.

“We are about to begin the trial of People of the State of New York v. Donald Trump,” Merchan told the 12 jurors and six alternates.

Merchan emphasized that the burden of proof rests on the prosecutors and that jurors should presume that Trump is innocent. A guilty verdict requires that each juror determines that the state proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt, Merchan said.

“The defendant is presumed to be innocent,” Merchan said. “It is not sufficient to prove that the defendant is probably guilty.”

Merchan attempted to set expectations for the jurors, only two of which have ever served on a jury before. For example, Merchan told the jurors not to expect the lawyers to launch into lengthy speeches outside of the opening and closing statements.

“That happens in TV and in movies, but it doesn’t happen in real trials,” Merchan said.

Apr 22, 10:09 AM
Judge issues mixed ruling on cross-examination of Trump

Judge Juan Merchan ruled that if Trump takes the stand, prosecutors can question him about a number of previous legal issues — but the judge limited the scope of the cases and the extent to which prosecutors can question him about the facts of those cases.

The ruling is a mixed bag for Trump, who had sought to entirely block questioning on these previous issues if he takes the stand.

Judge Merchan ruled that Trump can be questioned by the DA’s office on six determinations from four previous proceedings, including aspects of his New York civil fraud case and the gag order violations there, as well as both E. Jean Carrol verdicts and the Trump foundation case.

Prosecutors had originally asked to question Trump about six different proceedings with 13 total determinations.

Merchan said with his ruling, he has “greatly curtailed” how much prosecutors can discuss the underlying facts of those cases.

“The court cautions the defendant that this Sandoval ruling is a shield, not a sword,” Merchan said.

Apr 22, 9:59 AM
Schedule set for today’s proceedings

Prosecutors told Judge Merchan that they need 40 minutes for their opening statements.

Defense attorneys told the judge they need 25 minutes.

The judge also announced that court will break at 12:30 p.m. ET today, after a juror had a toothache and got an emergency appointment this afternoon.

Court had already been scheduled to end early today, at 2 p.m. ET, due to the Passover holiday.

Apr 22, 9:52 AM
Issue with Juror No. 9 is resolved

Judge Juan Merchan announced there is an issue with Juror No. 9 — who, according to Merchan, “was concerned about media attention” of the case. According to Merchan, the juror “wasn’t 100% sure” they could serve.

Merchan said they would speak to the juror in chambers to “find out what the issue is and see if this juror can continue to serve.”

After a brief sidebar, the judge announced: “Juror No. 9 is going to remain with us.”

There are six alternate jurors seated in case any of the 12 jurors cannot serve.

Apr 22, 9:44 AM
Trump tells reporters it’s a ‘sad day in America’

On his way into the courtroom for the day’s proceedings, Trump once again alleged that the trial constitutes election interference, claiming that the proceedings are unfairly keeping him off the campaign trail.

“Everybody knows that I’m here instead of being able to be in Pennsylvania and Georgia and lots of other places campaigning, and it’s very unfair,” he told reporters.

“It’s a very, very sad day in America,” he said. “I can tell you that.”

The former president is seated at the defense table between his lawyers Todd Blanche and Emil Bove.

Apr 22, 9:37 AM
Proceedings are underway

The proceedings are underway in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial. Trump and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg are both in the courtroom.

Three prosecutors — Joshua Steinglass, Matthew Colangelo, and Susan Hoffinger — are seated at the counsel table.

Bragg is seated in the front row of the gallery with approximately a dozen lawyers and staff from his office.

Apr 22, 9:26 AM
Ex-National Enquirer publisher to be 1st witness, say sources

The first witness prosecutors with the Manhattan DA’s office plan to call is former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

ABC News previously reported that prosecutors planned to call Pecker as a witness, but sources now say he’s expected to be the first witness to take the stand.

Pecker served as the longtime chief executive of American Media Inc., which published the National Enquirer.

Shortly after Trump announced his 2016 presidential campaign, Pecker met with Trump and agreed to act as the “eyes and ears” of the campaign by looking out for and killing negative stories about Trump, according to the Manhattan DA.

As part of the arrangement, Pecker allegedly directed a deal to pay $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman regarding the false allegation that Trump allegedly fathered a child out of wedlock, prosecutors say. Then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen allegedly insisted that the deal stay in place even after AMI discovered the allegation was false, and AMI paid the doorman, according to the Manhattan DA.

Apr 22, 5:55 AM
Attorneys to present opening statements in historic trial

After a week-long selection process, the jurors in Donald Trump’s New York hush money case will hear opening statements Monday in the first criminal trial of a former United States president.

To prove their case, lawyers for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg need to convince 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump repeatedly falsified records related to unlawfully influencing the 2016 presidential election.

“This case has nothing to do with your personal politics or your feelings about a particular political issue,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told potential jurors on Thursday. “It’s not a referendum on the Trump Presidency, a popularity contest, or any indication of who you plan to vote for this fall. This case is about whether this man broke the law.”

Trump’s lawyers are expected to focus their efforts on going after the credibility of prosecution witnesses, suggesting the case itself is politically motivated and arguing the former president never intended to commit a crime.

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