Trump hush money trial live updates: Trump calls trial ‘assault on America’

Trump hush money trial live updates: Trump calls trial ‘assault on America’
Former US President Donald Trump waves as he 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
April 15th, 2024 | ABC News Radio

(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York City, where he is facing felony charges related to a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. It marks the first time in history that a former U.S. president has been tried on criminal charges.

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Jury selection could take up to two weeks, with the entire trial expected to last between six and eight weeks.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Apr 15, 5:08 PM
Trump, exiting court, criticizes scheduling conflicts

Exiting court after a lengthy day of proceedings, former President Trump complained about the scheduling conflicts created by his criminal trial, including conflicts with his presidential campaign, his plans to attend Supreme Court oral arguments, and potentially his son’s graduation.

“Now I can’t go to my son’s graduation,” Trump said. “I can’t go to the United States Supreme Court. I’m not in Georgia or Florida or North Carolina campaigning like I should be,” Trump told reporters outside court.

Trump repeated his past complaints about the fairness of the trial, saying he has a “real problem” with Judge Merchan.

“It’s a scam, it’s a political witch hunt,” Trump said. “We’re not going to be given a fair trial.”

Apr 15, 5:02 PM
Judge won’t excuse Trump to attend Supreme Court arguments

At the end of the court day, Judge Juan Merchan denied a request from defense attorney Todd Blanche to excuse Trump from the proceedings in New York next Thursday, when the U.S. Supreme Court hears Trump’s bid for presidential immunity in his in his 2020 federal election interference case.

“It’s an incredibly unusual case,” Blanche said.

“Arguing before the Supreme Court is a big deal; I can understand why your client wants to be there,” Merchan said — adding that standing trial in New York is also a big deal

“Your client is a criminal defendant in New York County Supreme Court. He’s required to be here,” the judge said.

Apr 15, 4:52 PM
Several more jurors dismissed during questioning

After the parties questioned a total of 11 witnesses, two of them were struck for cause, including a man who cited a conflict with the trial due to his child’s wedding.

One potential juror disclosed that he worked for the Bronx district attorney’s office, and other jurors listed professions including sales, oncology nursing and social media marketing.

Another potential juror, who lives on the Upper West Side and works at a bookstore, made a brief remark about the fairness of the justice system while answering the questionnaire.

“I believe that nobody is above the law, whether it be a former president or a sitting president or a janitor,” he said.

The remaining jurors are due to return to court tomorrow to complete the questions. Merchan said another panel of jurors will arrive at court tomorrow morning.

Apr 15, 3:56 PM
Prospective jurors questioned about their jobs, hobbies

A portrait of New York is emerging as prospective jurors explain their job, their hobbies, and, most importantly, whether they harbor an opinion of the former president that might render them unable to evaluate the facts of the case impartially.

After about 50 jurors were excused after claiming they could not be fair or impartial, and nine more prospective jurors were excused after saying they could not serve for other reasons, about 34 of the initial group of 96 jurors remain under consideration.

One prospective juror was overheard in the hallway after leaving the courtroom, saying “I just couldn’t do it.”

The remaining 34 are now answering a 42-question form out loud, one by one.

A venture capitalist from Midtown East, a creative ad director from Midtown, and a city employee from the Upper West Side have shared details of their lives and remain in the running to be seated on the jury — for now.

They listed New York Times, CNN, TikTok and al Jazeera as their news outlets of choice. Each has a degree of higher education: an MBA, a BFA, and an unspecified Masters’ degree.

At times, Trump appears to be reading along with them as they answer the questions — including if they follow him on social media or have read any of his books.

Apr 15, 3:26 PM
At least 50 of 96 jurors excused over impartiality

At least 50 of the 96 potential jurors in the first group have been excused from service after they identified that they can’t be fair or impartial regarding the case.

Judge Merchan is now beginning the process of questioning the remaining jurors.

Apr 15, 3:18 PM
Trump family, administration officials could be called as witnesses

During his lengthy remarks to potential jurors regarding the case, Judge Merchan listed several individuals who could potentially be called as witnesses at trial — but emphasized that not all would be summoned to the stand.

Among those Merchan listed as potential witnesses were Trump, Stormy Daniels, and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, as well as David Pecker, the former American Media Inc. executive who prosecutors say played an integral role in a plan to “catch and kill” negative stories about Trump in 2016.

Several Trump family members were also named, including Melania Trump, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

Other potential witnesses listed were former members of Trump’s administration, including Steven Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus, Hope Hicks and John McEntee.

Merchan also listed a number of former employees of the Trump Organization, including Allen Weisselberg, Jeffrey McConney, Dan Scavino, Rhonna Graff and Alan Garten. Additional names mentioned included Robert Costello, Keith Davidson, and Rudy Guliani.

Apr 15, 3:05 PM
Trump faces prospective jurors

As Judge Merchan reviewed the details of the case for the first group of 96 prospective jurors, former President Trump turned and faced the group — eliciting visible responses from the gallery.

One woman let out an audible giggle, covered her mouth, and looked to her neighbor with eyebrows raised. Others craned their necks from the rear of the courtroom to catch a glimpse of the defendant.

Trump earlier had his eyes locked on Merchan as the judge went through his instructions to the group.

The former president subsequently appeared to close his eyes and fold his arms, sporadically adjusting in his seat.

Apr 15, 2:46 PM
Judge delivers remarks to prospective jurors

The first group of 96 prospective jurors has been sworn in.

Judge Merchan is now delivering remarks that he said will last about 30 minutes, introducing the case and explaining to prospective jurors their responsibility — if selected — to be fair and impartial.

Trump has been leaning forward in his seat listening, with his elbows on the desk.

Apr 15, 2:34 PM
1st group of prospective jurors enters courtroom

Dozens of New Yorkers are now being escorted into the courtroom as prospective jurors.

Judge Merchan will deliver a summary of the case before attorneys for both parties have an opportunity to evaluate the prospective jurors’ fitness to serve.

According to the pool, 96 individuals will make up the first batch to go through the laborious selection process. Merchan said approximately 200 people have been summoned to the courthouse for potential jury duty on the case.

Trump, during a lengthy break as court officials escorted jurors through security magnetometers, could be seen reclining in his chair and conversing with his attorney Todd Blanche.

Apr 15, 1:59 PM
Judge gives defense 24 hours to submit exhibits

Judge Merchan has issued Trump’s defense team an ultimatum: Turn over their proposed defense exhibits in 24 hours or be barred from using the materials.

“You have 24 hours,” Merchan said. “Anything you don’t produce within 24 hours will be precluded.”

Defense attorney Todd Blanche pushed back on the deadline, arguing against a prosecutor’s assertion that defense withheld materials following a February exhibit deadline for “tactical reasons.”

“That is completely false,” Blanche said. He asked Merchan for a Wednesday deadline instead, given the demands of the trial.

Merchan declined to grant the request, highlighting the recent flurry of defense motions filed over the last few weeks.

“I don’t know how you managed to get those motions out,” Merchan said. “The way you choose to use your time is your business.”

Apr 15, 1:52 PM
Judge sets hearing on holding Trump in contempt

Judge Merchan has set a hearing on prosecutors’ request to hold Trump in contempt for allegedly violating the judge’s limited gag order.

After initially setting the hearing for Wednesday, April 24, he rescheduled it for Tuesday, April 23 at 9:30 a.m. ET.

The judge gave Trump’s attorneys until April 19 to file their written response.

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy also asked that a copy of the order be served on Trump, and papers were then handed to Trump and defense attorney Todd Blanche at the defense table.

Apr 15, 1:44 PM
Court back in session following break

Judge Juan Merchan has restarted court for the afternoon proceedings following the lunch break.

Both Donald Trump and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg are in attendance.

Trump made no remarks to reporters before entering the courtroom after the break.

Apr 15, 12:44 PM
Defense says Trump’s posts were responding to attacks

Trump attorney Todd Blanche, responding to prosecutors’ request for Judge Merchan to fine Trump for three social media posts they say violated the judge’s limited gag order, characterized the posts as “limited responses to this barrage of attacks” against him by Stormy Daniels and Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen.

“It’s not as if President Trump is going out and targeting individuals. He’s responding to … attacks from these witnesses,” Blanche said.

The three posts by Trump — two on April 10 and a third on April 13 — came just days before the trial.

In one of those posts, Trump thanked Daniels’ former attorney, Michael Avenatti for “revealing the truth about two sleaze bags” — a statement prosecutors say clearly “attacks” Daniels and Cohen and their participation in the trial.

Judge Merchan said Blanche would have an opportunity to respond in a paper filing.

“I’ll take this upstairs with me over the lunch recess,” Merchan said.

The judge then recessed court until 1:30 p.m. ET.

Apr 15, 12:31 PM
Prosecutors seek to have Trump fined for social media posts

Prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office asked Judge Merchan’s permission to seek to hold former President Trump in contempt for alleged violations of the judge’s order against attacking witnesses.

“We’re seeking permission to file a proposed order to show cause to show why the defendant should not be held in contempt based on extrajudicial statements,” assistant district attorney Chris Conroy said.

He said the order would seek a $1,000 fine for each of three social media posts that prosecutors said violated the judge’s limited gag order.

The three allegedly offending posts occurred this month when Trump reposted a social media post from Stormy Daniels’ former attorney Michael Avenatti that was disparaging of Daniels and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, plus a second post about Daniels and a third post about a member of the prosecution team.

“It is important for the court to remind President Trump he is a criminal defendant,” Conroy said. “The defendant has expressed a willingness to flout the order” Merchan imposed.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche said the three posts do not violate the gag order. He sought permission to formally respond in writing.

Apr 15, 12:24 PM
Trump ‘wants to be present at everything,’ attorney says

Former President Donald Trump “wants to be present at everything” during trial, his attorney told the court, including side conferences during the jury selection process.

Judge Merchan suggested that could create “logistical” issues, citing the the presence of Secret Service agents, but suggested he would do his best to accommodate Trump.

The judge then directed a series of questions to Trump himself, asking him whether he understands that his failure to attend the trial or appear for sentencing could merit penalties from the court.

After each question, Trump nodded his head and appeared to answer verbally, “Yes,” or “I do.”

Apr 15, 12:13 PM
Jury selection almost ready to begin

After several hours of arguments over various evidentiary and procedural matters, jury selection is nearly ready to get underway.

“This is what we’re going to do — sit down and relax,” Judge Merchan told attorneys for both sides. “We have 500 jurors waiting for us. And to be honest with you, I’m not interested in getting into this minutiae with you.”

“There’s more important work to be done,” he said.

Before moving on, Merchan assured attorneys for both parties that his pretrial rulings are subject to change over the course of the trial.

“This is a roadmap,” Merchan said, referring to his rulings. “I can reverse myself, I can change my mind.”

Merchan then began reading instructions to the attorneys about how to conduct themselves before prospective jurors.

Apr 15, 11:56 AM
Judge rules on Trump’s attacks being admitted as evidence

After a break, Judge Merchan ruled that prosecutors can submit evidence related to Trump’s attacks on his former attorney Michael Cohen if the defense first chooses to question Cohen’s credibility as a witness.

Merchan said, “I imagine” the defense will seek “to discredit” Cohen — and when they do, he said, “the door is open” for prosecutors to introduce those tweets of Trump’s.

Trump has been leaning forward with his hands clasped beneath his chin as his attorney, Todd Blanche, argues about what other evidentiary guardrails should be in place.

Apr 15, 11:38 AM
Prosecutors say they may seek to have Trump held in contempt

Following the arguments over alleged witness intimidation, prosecutors signaled they may seek to have Trump held in contempt.

A limited gag order Judge Merchan imposed in recent weeks prohibits Trump from attacking witnesses and others associated with the case.

“Shortly, we will be seeking order to show cause as to why defendant should not be held in contempt,” prosecutor Josh Steinglass said, suggesting Trump violated Merchan’s order.

Apr 15, 11:24 AM
DA wants Trump’s ‘pressure campaign’ admitted as evidence

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass argued that several pieces of evidence related to Trump’s alleged “pressure campaign” meant to “keep witnesses off this stand, at this trial” should be introduced at trial.

Steinglass said Trump’s public commentary amounted to a “thinly veiled effort to intimidate” two of the government’s star witnesses, Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels.

“The defendant himself has publicly embraced the public strategy of going after his perceived enemies,” Steinglass said.

“These tweets, phone calls and emails” should be permitted, Steinglass said. “It’s a clear effort to raise the cost of cooperation.”

Trump’s public postings, Steinglass argued, demonstrate Trump’s attempts to silence potential fact witnesses and “relate to his consciousness of guilt.”

Trump attorney Todd Blanche pushed back, saying that Trump has been “facing criticism from all sides … the media and others … and he’s defending himself” to his “millions and millions of followers.”

Apr 15, 11:18 AM
Judge won’t allow sexual misconduct allegations

Judge Merchan declined to allow prosecutors to introduce the sexual misconduct allegations a number of women made against Trump during the closing weeks of the 2016 campaign, deciding they’re “complete hearsay.”

However, Merchan said prosecutors are allowed to show the jury videotaped clips of Trump from some of his campaign events in which he appears agitated about some of the allegations.

“This concern over losing female voters was the catalyst for the defendant to lock down the Stormy Daniels story before it became the straw that broke the camel’s back,” prosecutor Josh Steinglass argued.

The defense said unproven accusations of other women whose claims are not part of the criminal trial are “a very prejudicial sideshow.”

The judge agreed that introducing the allegations themselves would not be fair to Trump, but he told prosecutors “You can still use those tapes” of Trump’s campaign appearances. The former president has denied all such allegations.

Trump is leaning back in his chair as he listens to this throwback to the chaotic close of the 2016 campaign, frequently leaning in to tap defense attorney Todd Blanche on the arm to get his attention and then whispering something into his ear.

Apr 15, 11:05 AM
Judge affirms ‘Access Hollywood’ tape can’t be played

Prosecutors will not be allowed to play audio or video of the former president’s infamous “Access Hollywood” tape or his video deposition from the E. Jean Carroll defamation case for jurors, Judge Merchan ruled.

Joshua Steinglass, a prosecutor, argued that the words used in the “Access Hollywood” tape was necessary for jurors to get a complete picture of their case. Blanche framed the video as “extremely salacious evidence that’s very, very, very prejudicial.”

On the matter of the “Access Hollywood” tape, Merchan reaffirmed his prior ruling that it should not be played for the jury — but said prosecutors can read Trump’s words aloud.

“It’s not a little point,” Merchan said. “My ruling that we were not to play the tape was, and remains, that the tape itself is so prejudicial — to see Mr. Trump depicted, the words coming out of his mouth, the facial expressions … the tape itself should not come in.”

On the 2005 tape, Trump can be heard saying that “when you’re a star, you can do anything” to women, including “Grab them by the p—-.”

Merchan also said video from Trump’s deposition in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation trial should not be played to the jury.

Apr 15, 10:51 AM
Judge hears arguments over evidence

Judge Merchan heard arguments about whether evidence involving the Trump campaign’s interactions with the National Enquirer and Trump’s alleged affair with former Playboy model Karen McDougal should be allowed at trial. The former president has denied all allegations of the affair.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche argued that the topics are a “sideshow” that threatened to “do nothing but confuse the jury about the actual crime charged.”

Of the McDougal claims, Blanche called them “literally just salacious with no value.”

Merchan ultimately sided with prosecutors on both, saying it would help prosecutors present a “narrative” and “lay the proper foundation” for their case.

The materials are “not illegal or improper,” Merchan said. “I will allow it.”

Merchan did instruct prosecutors not to make references to the fact that Trump’s wife Melania was pregnant at the time of the alleged affair with McDougal.

Apr 15, 10:30 AM
Judge addresses dispute over jury questionnaire

After blocking Trump’s effort to remove him from the case, Judge Merchan addressed a series of logistical and scheduling matters — including his intention to take two days off next week for Passover.

Merchan then moved on to a more substantial matter: a dispute over how jurors will be questioned and selected. Trump attorney Todd Blanche argued that the jury questionnaire includes “asymmetry” that opens the door for jurors who harbor hostility toward the former president to be seated.

Merchan swiftly denied it. “That is not relevant,” he said. “There is no asymmetry in the questionnaire.”

Meanwhile, the former president appears to be listening intently. His eyes appear fixed on the judge at times and, at other times, he is reviewing papers in front of him.

Apr 15, 10:14 AM
Judge denies motion to recuse himself

After attorneys for each side introduced themselves, Judge Juan Merchan said that before jury selection can begin “there are a couple of loose ends we need to go over before we start.”

The first item, Merchan said, was a pair of motions filed by Trump’s legal team seeking his recusal from the case, citing his past comments in interviews and his daughter’s work with a Democrat-affiliated firm.

The motions, Merchan said, cite “pages and pages of screen grabs, articles, social media posts and the like” that amount only to “a series of inferences, innuendos, and unsupported speculation.”

To call them “attenuated is an understatement,” Merchan said.

Merchan denied the motion and said the court would not address the matter further.

Apr 15, 10:03 AM
Proceedings are underway

“All rise,” the bailiff announced at 9:59 a.m. ET. “This is the People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump.”

And with that, proceedings are underway.

Members of the prosecution and the defense, including the former president, stood briefly as Judge Juan Merchan entered the courtroom and took his seat on the bench.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg entered the courtroom shortly before court went into session.

Apr 15, 9:41 AM
Trump calls trial ‘assault on America’

Former President Trump arrived at the courtroom at 9:32 a.m. flanked by members of his legal team.

In brief remarks to reporters on the way in, he called his criminal trial an “assault on America.”

“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” Trump said, marking his first comments of the day as he becomes the first former American president to face criminal charges.

“There is no case,” he said. “This is political persecution.”

Trump also attacked President Joe Biden and said the case should not go forward.

Upon entering the courtroom, he sat at the defendant’s table as his lawyers and court officers buzzed around him.

Apr 15, 9:23 AM
Members of DA’s team arrive

Several members of the Manhattan district attorney’s office have arrived in the courtroom.

Proceedings are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Apr 15, 9:06 AM
Trump arrives at courthouse

Former President Trump has arrived at the courthouse in lower Manhattan.

He stepped out of his motorcade, waved, and walked into the side entrance.

A small group of supporters and protestors both cheered and booed his arrival.

Apr 15, 8:59 AM
Trump en route to courthouse

Former President Trump is en route to the courthouse in lower Manhattan for this morning’s proceedings.

The former president left for the the courthouse from Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan.

Apr 15, 7:26 AM
Court may start with hearing on Trump testifying

Court this morning may start with a hearing over what prosecutors can ask Trump during cross-examination should he take the stand later in the trial.

The judge would hear arguments from both the people and the defense. The proceedings would then move into jury selection later in the morning.

Prosecutors have indicated they would want to cross-examine Trump on approximately “thirteen different court determinations,” including the recent civil finding that he sexually abused columnist E. Jean Carroll, the criminal conviction of the Trump Organization last year, the finding that he committed a decade of business fraud, and the dissolution of his charity, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The hearing — known as a Sandoval hearing — is standard practice before jury selection and typically occurs when a defendant signals a willingness to testify.

In a filing last month, Trump’s lawyers requested a Sandoval hearing to limit the scope of Trump’s potential cross examination, if he opted to testify.

ABC News’ Katherine Faulders contributed to this report.

Apr 15, 7:06 AM
Jury selection set to begin

Former President Trump will leave his Trump Tower apartment in Midtown Manhattan this morning and travel down to lower Manhattan for the first day of jury selection in his criminal hush money trial.

The proceedings come after Trump unsuccessfully tried three times last week to delay the start of the trial through the filing of appeals.

As a defendant in a criminal case, the former president will be required to be in court for the entire trial, which is expected to take six to eight weeks.

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