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May 26, 2024

Donald Trump on Trial

Donald Trump on Trial




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A criminal trial is often a contest between competing stories. In the trial of Donald Trump that’s just begun, prosecutors used their opening statement yesterday to tell a story about a man they say lied — and broke the law — to get elected president.

The prosecutors said that Trump had paid $130,000 in hush money to a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair and that he had then filed false business records to pretend that the money was instead for legal fees. His actions were part of a pattern in which he repeatedly lied to shape his image, the prosecutors said, and it worked: He narrowly won the 2016 election.

The story that Trump’s lawyers offered in their own opening statements had two main features. First, they urged the jurors not to trust the witnesses who will testify against Trump, including Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, who previously pleaded guilty to making false statements. Second, Trump’s lawyers argued that his attempts to affect the election were ordinary politics.

“There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election,” Todd Blanche, one of Trump’s lawyers, said in his opening statement. “It’s called democracy.”

(Related: Our colleagues Jonah Bromwich and Ben Protess explain the trial’s opposing visions of Trump.)

The immediate audience for these dueling arguments is the jury of 12 New Yorkers who will decide the verdict. But there is also a larger audience that will judge the case, of course: American voters.

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