US

Trump ‘orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt’ the 2016 election, historic trial hears

Former US president Donald Trump has said it is a “very sad day in America” as he spoke before heading into court for his historic hush money trial.

Trump said his trial is an example of “election interference”, describing it as “very unfair”.

“People understand what’s going on,” he said, describing the trial as a “witch hunt”.

Trump, who has secured the Republican nomination for the 2024 US presidential election, said outside court: “I’m here instead of being able to be in Pennsylvania and Georgia and lots of other places campaigning and it’s very unfair.”

The former US president said the trial is “in coordination with Washington” and “done for the purposes of hurting the opponent of the worst president in the history of our country”.

Trump will run against current US leader Joe Biden when the election gets under way in November.

Today’s opening statements set the stage for weeks of testimony about Trump’s personal life.

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A panel of New Yorkers – 12 jurors and six alternates – were sworn in on Friday after four days of jury selection, and will hear what is the first-ever criminal trial against a former US commander-in-chief.

Trump is accused of falsifying internal business records as part of an alleged scheme to bury stories that he thought might hurt his presidential campaign in 2016.

At the heart of the allegations is a $130,000 (£106,000) payment made to porn actor Stormy Daniels by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer, to allegedly prevent her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump from surfacing in the final days of the race.

Read more:
Who is the porn star at the centre of Trump’s hush money case?

Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of such payments in internal business documents.

Trump has denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels, and his lawyers argue that the payments to Mr Cohen were legitimate legal expenses.

He has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

The hush money case is the first of Trump’s four indictments to reach trial.

Donald Trump looks on at the Manhattan Criminal Court .
Pic: Reuters
Image:
Donald Trump looks on at the Manhattan Criminal Court .
Pic: Reuters

In his comments outside the courthouse today, the former president also spoke about his New York civil fraud case where he was ordered to pay a fine of at least $453.5m (£354m) after he was found to have inflated his wealth on financial statements given to banks, insurers and other institutions to make deals and secure loans.

The judgement was won by the Attorney General of New York Letitia James, who has challenged a $175m (£142m) bond provided to Trump by insurer Knight Specialty Insurance Co.

The company is trying to convince a state judge today that it is financially strong enough to issue the guarantee after Ms James questioned if the bond was backed by secure assets.

Trump said outside court today: “On the Letitia James case, she’s the worst attorney general in the country and she keeps a lot of business out of New York.

“Businesses that are here are leaving and that means jobs and a lot of revenue.”

Donald Trump with his lawyer Todd Blanche, right, outside court. Pic: AP
Image:
Donald Trump with his lawyer Todd Blanche, right, outside court. Pic: AP

In relation to his bond, he said: “The money was put up it was $175m and I don’t think (Ms James) is complaining about me for the first time, she’s complaining about the company, but why would she be doing that when I put up the money?”

He added that the insurer will be making its case in front an “extremely crazed judge” who is the “most overturned judge in New York State”.

Before walking into court, Trump said: “A thing like (the civil fraud case) and a thing like (his hush money case) should never be happening.

“It’s a very very sad day in America.”

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