The hidden side of politics

Trump to make history Monday as the first U.S. president put on criminal trial

Reported by Washington Times:

It’s really happening.

A New York court will begin selecting jurors Monday to try an ex-president on criminal charges for the first time in U.S. history.

Former President Donald Trump managed to delay criminal cases against him in Georgia and federal court but will make history when he enters a Manhattan courtroom for a trial on 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Even if convicted of felony counts, it is unlikely the presumptive GOP presidential nominee will face prison time given his lack of criminal history and the nature of the charges. The facts in the case are eight years old and have been litigated in the court of public opinion during that time.

Yet polls show a criminal conviction could dent Mr. Trump’s support among independents as he heads for a rematch with President Biden.

The case also hinges on salacious claims that Mr. Trump, fearing bad press in 2016, paid $130,000 in hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged sexual encounter from nearly two decades ago, along with payments to a second woman who alleged an affair and a doorman who pushed an unproven story that Mr. Trump had a child out of wedlock.

Prosecutors allege Mr. Trump concealed the payments through reimbursements to his attorney-turned-accuser, Michael D. Cohen, recorded in official business ledgers on multiple dates in 2017.

Mr. Trump served as president from 2017 to January 2021.

Mr. Trump denies the affair with Ms. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and says the charges are part of a broad Democratic plot to thwart his presidential bid.

Mr. Biden “can’t put two sentences together, he can’t do anything, so they weaponize government and they take me to court on bullshit,” Mr. Trump said in a recent social media post.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers say an earlier New York prosecutor took a pass on the case, only to charge the ex-president on the cusp of the 2024 election, and are relying on a known liar in Mr. Cohen. They also say Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg will have difficulty making his case to the jury.

Mr. Bragg is charging the former president with a first-degree felony charge that requires an “intent to defraud,” meaning the act “includes an intent to commit another crime or to conceal it,” said David Schultz, a professor at Hamline University who is tracking Mr. Trump’s cases.

The indictment is sparsely worded, though prosecutors have alleged that records were falsified to conceal what amounted to a campaign expenditure — one that should have been disclosed. They’ve also alluded to potential tax crimes.

“That is another possibility. There could be some kind of tax issue, did he make some kind of claim about this disbursement?” Mr. Schultz said.

Prosecutors will begin to connect the dots in opening arguments after a jury is empaneled for one of the most closely watched cases in history.

Mr. Trump tried to get the case dismissed or delayed by pointing to a parallel fight before the Supreme Court over whether presidents enjoy broad immunity from prosecution for actions taken while they occupied the White House. It didn’t work, nor did his claim that Judge Juan Merchan would be politically biased against him.

It is unclear how much it will move the political needle heading into the November election. Over half of registered voters told the Suffolk University Poll in March they are not following the trial too closely or not at all, and 84% of Trump supporters said they would still vote for him if he is convicted.

Still, the first day of the trial is expected to be a media circus, and Trump supporters and detractors will likely holler at each other in the park outside the courthouse.

Judge Merchan told attorneys that potential jurors will be asked about their media-consumption habits and whether they follow fringe political groups like the Proud Boys or Antifa, but not their political party affiliation. Selected jurors will remain anonymous to the public, given the highly charged nature of the case.

Source:Washington Times