US: Opening statements in Donald Trump's hush-money trial set for Monday

World Saturday 20/April/2024 07:09 AM
US: Opening statements in Donald Trump's hush-money trial set for Monday

Washington, DC: A jury is set to hear opening statements on Monday on whether former US President Donald Trump falsified bank records to hide an alleged affair from people in the 2016 election, The Washington Post reported.

The trial began this week with a speedy but emotional jury selection. A few potential jurors cried as they considered whether they could handle the first-ever trial of a former president.
Trump is accused of falsifying business records related to a hush-money deal with an adult film actress made ahead of the 2016 election, The Hill reported. He has pleaded not guilty.

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan expressed gratitude to the participants for their bravery as several shared painful details regarding their pasts in front of reporters during the jury screening process, according to The Washington Post report. He praised others for their honesty in their statement that the former US President's rhetoric would make it difficult for them to judge Trump fairly.

Through questions created to remove bias among the jury pool, the two sides have begun to indicate their trial strategies. Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass told prospective jurors that the government would prove bank fraud and an implicit conspiracy to "commit election fraud" and "pull the wool over the eyes of the American voters."

According to prosecutors formulation, Donald Trump skirted campaign finance laws by funnelling a payment of USD 130,000 to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels through Michael Cohen, his attorney and then falsely claiming that the money used to repay Cohen was for legal work.

Defence attorney Susan Necheles outlined her plan for impeaching the testimony of Cohen, by asking potential jurors if they could "use common sense" and "understand that if two witnesses ... say two diametrically opposed things, someone is lying."

She further stated that the jurors should agree that "if somebody tells a story a number of different ways over time and changes the details, that might be a sign that they are lying."

The first of four criminal prosecutions Trump faces is generally considered as the weakest in part due to the people involved. Cohen has acknowledged he has lied to Congress and federal tax and election officials. Daniels previously denied she had an affair with Trump.

Daniels has said she felt she had no choice as she had signed the non-disclosure agreement.

Before leaving the court, the 12 jurors and six alternates were asked not to read, listen to or watch anything about the case, or hold talks about it with anyone. It will be a particular challenge for them as it might become the most closely-covered case in US history, featuring a presidential candidate and reality television star.

On Friday, Trump said that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who graduated from Harvard for college and law school, was "probably not smart enough to" handle the trial himself.

One member of the jury pool was eliminated from the group after she said that Trump's rise had "emboldened" homophobic, racist and sexist commentary at the gym where she used to do boxing, according to The Washington Post report.

Another woman got emotional when she explained she could not be part of the jury group due to a past felony conviction, the details of which she shared with the judge. A man teared up when he said he had been the victim of a crime.

Trump's team has been accusing jurors of being biased against him, The Washington Post reported. However, many of those selected said they did not engage on such platforms or follow politics closely, preferring news about sports, technology and business.