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Recent Updates on Hush Money Case Declarations

NEW YORK — The center of former President Donald Trump’s Recent York hush money trial, overseen by Judge Juan Merchan, kicked off on Monday with opening statements and witness testimony. Matthew Colangelo delivered the opening argument for the prosecution, alleging that the previous president’s actions were “election fraud, pure and easy.” Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, criticized accounts from Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and porn star Stormy Daniels, telling the jury, “There’s nothing unsuitable with attempting to influence an election.”

Jurors are deciding whether Trump falsified business records to cover up a hush money payment from Cohen to Daniels. Trump authorized the payment in an effort to keep Daniels from hurting his 2016 presidential campaign by going public together with her story that the pair had sex, in keeping with the prosecutors. Trump denies Daniels’ claim and has pleaded not guilty. David Pecker, the previous head of the National Enquirer’s parent company, was the primary witness called to the stand within the case. He’s expected to face further questions on how the corporate routinely paid for scandalous stories that it didn’t publish, under what others called a “catch-and-kill” strategy.

Meet up with USA TODAY’s live updates from inside and outdoors the Manhattan courthouse:

Donald Trump insists payments were ‘legal expense’ slightly than try to affect 2016 campaign. Trump is charged with falsifying business records to pay hush money to silence women before the 2016 election. But he insisted that his payments to his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, were accurately marked as legal expenses slightly than what prosecutors contend were a reimbursement for the $130,000 paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels. Trump said Cohen was imprisoned for other charges coping with taxi medallions and tax fraud. But Cohen also pleaded guilty to a campaign finance violation for the payment to Daniels. Trump repeated that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s predecessor and federal prosecutors investigated him and declined to prosecute. “That is what I got indicted for?” Trump asked. “It’s very unfair.”

Donald Trump exits courtroom after day 5 of hush money trial. Donald Trump exited the courtroom at 12:43 p.m. ET. Proceedings will resume Tuesday with arguments over whether Trump has violated Judge Juan Merchan’s gag order. Those will likely be held within the morning outside the presence of the jury. Jurors have been instructed that proceedings involving them will start at 11:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, and can end at 2 p.m. ET in light of the Passover holiday.

What’s ‘catch-and-kill’? The National Enquirer, a tabloid, routinely paid sources for stories and sometimes refused to publish them, under what prosecutors and witnesses within the Donald Trump hush money trial called a “catch-and-kill” strategy. The publication’s parent company, American Media Inc., denied a catch-and-kill policy after The Wall Street Journal revealed a $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claimed a year-long affair with Trump, without ever publishing the story.

But as an alternative, the corporate put her picture on a few magazine covers and had her write a number of fitness columns. AMI later acknowledged spending greater than was routine to dam McDougal’s story because the corporate expected to be reimbursed by Trump. The silencing of derogatory stories before the 2016 election is at the center of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s charges against Trump that he falsified business records to pay hush money.

Lawyers, Judge Juan Merchan talk over lingering trial issues. Although jurors have left for the day, lawyers and the judge are continuing to debate trial issues, including instructions the judge should give when lawyers introduce newspaper articles later in trial. Trump lawyer Emil Bove also raised concerns about “hearsay” coming into trial that is tied to Dylan Howard, a former editor of The National Enquirer who’s unable to travel and are available to the trial, in keeping with earlier testimony. “Hearsay” is a technical legal term referring to statements that were made outside a courtroom but are introduced in court in an effort to prove the reality of what was said. Such statements are prohibited unless they fall into specific exceptions.

Jurors excused for remainder of day. Judge Juan Merchan said proceedings would want to wrap up for the remaining of the day. He earlier said they would want to finish by 12:30 p.m. ET for an alternate juror’s emergency appointment over a toothache. The jurors have exited the courtroom. The lawyers have approached Merchan’s bench for a non-public conversation.

Prosecutor asks Pecker about former National Enquirer editor, ‘juicy stories’. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked Pecker about Dylan Howard, who was once the editor of The National Enquirer. Howard now lives in Australia and has a health condition that stops him from traveling, to one of the best of Pecker’s knowledge, Pecker said. Pecker confirmed Howard would run “juicy stories” by Pecker.

Donald Trump listening intently to David Pecker testimony. Donald Trump has his arms on the table in front of him and is leaning his body forward barely as he faces David Pecker directly. Why is David Pecker tied to Donald Trump’s hush money case? Publisher says he had ‘final say’ as former head of tabloid publisher. Pecker is describing his responsibilities when he was chairman, president, and CEO of American Media Inc. or “AMI,” which owns The National Enquirer and other publications. He worked there from 1999 to 2020. Pecker described having say over what would get published, including approving expenditures. He confirmed prosecutor Joshua Steinglass’ statement that he would have “final say” over whether to publish an article involving a megastar.

David Pecker called to the stand. Now we have gotten our first witness within the case: David Pecker, a tabloid publisher. Prosecutors have alleged Pecker was a key member of a “catch-and-kill” conspiracy involving Donald Trump to forestall stories that would hurt his 2016 presidential campaign from becoming public.

Donald Trump returns to courtroom. Donald Trump returned to the courtroom at 12:01 p.m. ET, trailed by members of his defense team. Judge Juan Merchan just asked for jurors to be brought into the courtroom.

Judge Juan Merchan enters courtroom. Juan Merchan re-entered the courtroom at about noon ET. Prosecutors are also within the courtroom. We’re waiting for Trump and his defense team to return.

Trump leaves the courtroom. Trump exited the courtroom at about 11:50 a.m. ET for a brief break in proceedings.

Trump lawyer ends opening statement. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche ended his opening statement by telling the jurors to “use your common sense.” He added: “We’re Recent Yorkers.” Blanche reminded jurors they promised to place aside any views they’ve about Trump and judge the case based on the evidence presented within the trial. In the event that they do this, there will likely be a “very swift” not guilty verdict for Trump, Blanche claimed.

Trump lawyer and prosecutors argue over Cohen’s alleged lies. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche began telling jurors that Michael Cohen has lied multiple times under oath. But prosecutors objected and there was just a non-public conversation on the judge’s bench. “The objection is sustained,” Judge Juan Merchan said. Blanche then told jurors they are going to learn Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying under oath. There was no objection – Merchan appears to be allowing that statement to the jurors. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 2018.

Michael Cohen ‘has a goal, an obsession, with getting Trump,’ lawyer for Trump says. Todd Blanche in his opening statement has been specializing in Michael Cohen, a potentially key witness for prosecutors. Michael Cohen “has misrepresented key conversations, where the one witness who was present for the conversation was Mr. Cohen and allegedly President Trump,” Blanche told the jurors. “He has a goal, an obsession, with getting Trump, and you are going to hear that,” Blanche added. “I undergo you that he can’t be trusted.”

Trump’s lawyer says Stormy Daniels’ claims are “false” in dramatic moment. Whether Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump actually had sex could also be irrelevant on this case, which deals with whether Trump falsified business records to cover up an try to unlawfully interfere with the 2016 election through the hush money payment to Daniels. But Trump lawyer Todd Blanche still took his time in emphasizing Trump denies Daniels’ claim. Paying Daniels for her agreement to not publicly spread “false – false – claims” about Trump is not illegal, Blanche told the jurors.

Trump lawyer: ‘There’s nothing unsuitable with attempting to influence an election. It’s called democracy.’ “There’s nothing unsuitable with attempting to influence an election. It’s called democracy,” Trump lawyer Todd Blanche told the jurors. Blanche added that prosecutors have put a “sinister” spin on this, as if it’s against the law, but jurors will learn it is not.

Defense lawyer denies Donald Trump was reimbursing Michael Cohen for Stormy Daniels hush money. Donald Trump’s defense is starting to take shape. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said a series of payments Trump sent to Michael Cohen weren’t payback for Cohen paying porn star Stormy Daniels hush money. That contradicts prosecutors, who say they were reimbursement payments. Blanche said Cohen was Trump’s personal attorney. In response to prosecutors, Trump falsely labeled his checks to Cohen as being for legal services.

Trump is now looking over…

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