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The former president make statements the media before entering the courtroom.
Trump Speaks Out on Day 1 of ‘Hush-Money’ Trial in New York
Former President Donald Trump speaks to the press as he arrives for the first day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on April 15, 2024. (Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump made history on Monday as he became the first former U.S. president to stand trial in a New York City courtroom for allegedly falsifying business payments during the 2016 campaign.

The former president took a seat at the defense table inside a Manhattan court as the jury selection process starts. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee will have to be in court for four days a week for the next six or more weeks.

Before entering the courtroom, President Trump told reporters that the trial is “an assault on America” and an attack on a “political opponent,” adding: “Nothing like this has ever happened before.

The case, he said, “should have never been brought” and is tantamount to “political persecution.” He added: “This is an assault on America and that’s why I’m very proud to be here. This is really an attack on a political opponent.”

“Every legal scholar said this this case is nonsense, it should never have been brought,” President Trump added to reporters on Monday.

While in court Monday, Judge Juan Merchan denied a Trump-brought motion for recusal and said he would not consider it again until an appeals court issued a ruling on the matter. He claimed the former president is engaging in using “inferences, innuendos, and unsupported speculation” to make claims to recuse himself.

Hundreds of people from Manhattan will file into the courthouse today to be considered as possible jurors in a process that could take multiple days.

On Truth Social, the former president wrote that the trial and case are election interference, noting that he could be using his time and money for campaigning for the 2024 presidential race instead of being in court.

At 6 a.m. Monday, the former president’s campaign sent out a lengthy press release saying District Attorney Alvin Bragg is “George Soros’s Favorite DA,” referring to the left-wing billionaire investor who has funneled millions of dollars into local elections to get leftist officials elected.

He faces dozens of counts of falsifying business records to allegedly cover up what has been described as “hush-money” payments to Stormy Daniels. The former president has pleaded not guilty and said he never had an affair with Ms. Daniels.

The felony charge he faces could be punishable by up to four years in prison. However, there’s no guarantee that President Trump would actually serve time behind bars if he’s convicted, with the sentence ultimately up to the judge. Notably, it’s not clear how the U.S. Secret Service would handle a former president being incarcerated.

New York court records and newspaper archives suggest that defendants convicted only of felony falsifying business records seldom get prison time unless they are also charged with more serious felonies. It’s also hard to know to what extent the logistical and political complications of jailing a former president might play a role in sentencing.

Ahead of the trial, Judge Merchan issued a gag order that prevents President Trump from speaking about witnesses and jurors. The judge expanded it earlier this month to prohibit comments about his own family after President Trump noted on social media that the judge’s daughter is a Democratic Party political consultant.

President Trump is allowed to make critical comments about the judge himself and Mr. Bragg. His lawyers have argued in court papers that the gag order imperils the former president’s First Amendment rights and noted he is the leading GOP candidate for president.

“I want my VOICE back. This Crooked Judge has GAGGED me. Unconstitutional! The other side can talk about me, but I am not allowed to talk about them! Rigged Trial!” President Trump also wrote over the past weekend.

Former President Donald Trump departs Trump Tower for Manhattan Criminal Court, to attend the first day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, in New York City on April 15, 2024. (Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)

At the same time, the judge has denied news organizations’ arguments to televise the proceedings, though he will briefly allow still photographers in the courtroom. New York is among the most restrictive states when it comes to electronic broadcasting of court proceedings, according to The Associated Press.

Last week, President Trump described his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, and Ms. Stormy Daniels as “two sleaze bags who have, with their lies and misrepresentations, cost our Country dearly!”

Both Mr. Cohen and Ms. Daniels, over the years, have given numerous interviews that have been critical of the former president. Over the weekend and on Monday, Mr. Cohen was frequently writing and sharing Trump-critical comments and posts on X, formerly Twitter.

President Trump has stated that he intends to testify at his trial. “All I can do is tell the truth,” he said in a recent public comment. “And the truth is, they have no case.”

Mr. Cohen, meanwhile, is expected to take the witness stand. Ms. Daniels, an adult film actress whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, may also be called in as a witness.

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