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Opening statements completed at Trump's NYC hush money trial

Molly Crane-Newman and Josephine Stratman, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

NEW YORK — Donald Trump schemed to defraud the 2016 electorate and covered up the plot by lying “over and over and over again” once he won the White House, prosecutors charged Monday during opening statements at the former president’s hush money trial.

The ruse central to the first-ever criminal case against an ex-U.S. president started with “three men in a room” at Trump Tower in August 2015, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo said in Manhattan Supreme Court: Trump, his convicted former fixer, Michael Cohen, and David Pecker, the former CEO of American Media, the parent company of The National Enquirer.

The trio sought to influence the results of the election by paying off porn star Stormy Daniels, former Playboy model Karen McDougal and a Trump Tower doorman — all of whom had unflattering information to share about Trump — Colangelo said.

“This case is about a criminal conspiracy and a cover-up,” the prosecutor added. “The defendant, Donald Trump, orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election. Then he covered up the criminal conspiracy by lying in his New York state business records over and over and over again.”

To ensure nothing would get in the way of Trump becoming the leader of the free world, Pecker agreed to be his campaign’s “eyes and ears” by using publisher AMI’s network of sources to “catch and kill” stories that could harm his chances, Colangelo alleged. Pecker allegedly reported tips to Cohen, who helped facilitate payments to anyone with dirt on his boss.

Pecker further saw to it that positive stories were published about Trump and negative pieces about his competitors, the jury heard. The hit pieces included claims that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had ties to JFK’s assassination.


Trump and his associates followed “through on every aspect of this scheme,” the prosecutor said, and the candidate was kept closely in the loop as The Enquirer “ran headline after headline that extolled the defendant’s virtues.” Colangelo said jurors will review a mountain of evidence, including a “flurry of text messages” among the scheme’s architects, and hear a phone call between Cohen and Trump.

The former president and presumptive Republican presidential nominee stewed at the defense table when Colangelo turned to the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, the release of which, the prosecutor said, led to great concern it would “irreparably damage” Trump’s standing with voters for “bragging” about sexual assault.

Jurors had no noticeable reaction as the prosecutor repeated Trump’s notorious caught-on-camera boast that being famous entitled him to grab women “by the p---y.”

Colangelo said the tape’s release in the weeks before the election put the Trump campaign in “damage control mode” and left no question that Daniels needed to be silenced about a years-old extramarital tryst with Trump that “would have been devastating to his campaign.”


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