Trump Lashes Out About Criminal Trial As Lawyers Deliver Opening Statements

Opening Statements Begin In Former President Donald Trump's New York Hush Money Trial

Photo: Pool / Getty Images News / Getty Images

Before entering the courtroom for his criminal trial on Monday (April 22), former President Donald Trump spoke to the press and slammed the four indictments filed against him.

"It's election interference. Everybody knows it," Trump said. "It's very unfair."

"These are all Biden trials," Trump added.

After addressing the media, Trump went into the courtroom, where Judge Juan Merchan announced his decision on what could be brought up if Trump testifies.

Merchan said he would allow prosecutors to ask Trump about his civil fraud case and violating a gag order during the trial. They will also bring up the defamation trial in which Trump was found liable for sexually assaulting and defaming E. Jean Carroll.

Judge Merchan then called the jury and read the instructions for the case. He reminded them that Trump is innocent, and the prosecution must prove that Trump broke the law beyond a reasonable doubt.

After the jury instructions were concluded, the prosecution began their opening statements.

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said that hush money payments were part of a criminal conspiracy to corrupt the presidential election.

"This case is about a criminal conspiracy and a cover-up," Colangelo said. "The defendant Donald Trump orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election. Then he covered up that criminal conspiracy by lying in his New York business records over and over and over again."

Colangelo said the conspiracy started in the early days of Trump's presidential campaign and highlighted a phone call between Trump, David Pecker, and Michael Cohen.

Colangelo said that three men "formed a conspiracy at that meeting to influence the presidential election by concealing negative information about Mr. Trump in order to help him get elected."

Colangelo then said that the $130,000 payment that Cohen made to Stormy Daniels was made "at the defendant's direction, and he did it to influence the presidential election."

Colangelo then said that Trump covered up the payment by labeling it as legal fees.

"[Trump] said in business records that he was paying Cohen for legal services pursuant to a retainer agreement. But those were lies. There was no retainer agreement," Colangelo explained.

He then walked the jury through some of the evidence they will hear about how Pecker, Cohen, and Trump worked together to kill any unflattering stories about Trump and using the National Enquirer to publish flattering stories about him.

"They used a practice called catch and kill," Colangelo told the jury. “It’s a way of buying damaging information not to publish it, but to hide it, make it go away, and in this case, help the candidate."

Colangelo also brought up the infamous Access Hollywood tape and read a transcript to the jury. Colangelo said that the release of the tape, in which Trump made offensive comments about women, "turned the rest of the presidential campaign entirely upside down."

With the campaign in damage control mode, Trump wanted to keep the allegations that he cheated on his wife with Stormy Daniels and helped organize the payment to keep her from going public.

Prosecutors noted that when Trump paid Cohen back $130,000, Cohen was not employed by Trump and did not have a retainer agreement. They then tried to boost Cohen's credibility and said that all of his testimony would be backed up and corroborated with other testimony and evidence.

Trump's defense attorneys tried to paint a different picture during their opening statements, insisting that Trump did nothing wrong.

"President Trump is innocent. President Trump did not commit any crimes," attorney Todd Blanche said.

Blanche called the prosecution's opening statement "a very clean, nice story," but added that "it is not simple." He said that the jury will have "plenty of reasonable doubt" once the trial has concluded.

He also said that the hush money payments were well within the law.

"I have a spoiler alert: There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It’s called democracy,"

"Entering into a non-disclosure agreement is perfectly legal," Blanche said. "You will learn that companies do that all the time with some regularity."

"Trump fought back to protect his family, his reputation, and his brand. That is not a crime."

Blanche also used his opening statement to attack some of the prosecution's witnesses, including Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels, and David Pecker.

"You cannot make a serious decision about President Trump relying on the words of Michael Cohen," Blanche said.

Blanche noted that while Stormy Daniels' testimony will be "salacious," it will not be relevant to the case

"Her testimony, while salacious, does not matter," he said.

Blanche asked the jury to use "common sense" when reviewing the case.

"Use your common sense. We’re New Yorkers. It’s why we’re here," Blanche said.

"If you do that, there will be a very swift not-guilty verdict."

After a brief ten-minute recess, the prosecution called its first witness, David Pecker. During his brief testimony, Pecker explained how, as CEO of American Media, he would personally vet and approve stories involving big-name celebrities that would be featured in the National Enquirer.

The trial adjourned for the day at 12:30 p.m. ET because one of the jurors had a dentist appointment.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content