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Donald Trump’s Criminal Trial Continues with Focus on “Catch and Kill Scheme”

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Donald Trump's Criminal Trial Continues with Focus on "Catch and Kill Scheme"

(CTN News) – The second day of Donald Trump’s criminal trial began on Tuesday, with New York prosecutors likely to spotlight a “catch and kill scheme” allegedly devised by the former president and the publisher of the National Enquirer to limit the harm caused by embarrassing discoveries.

The plan was devised in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election when Trump was in a close battle with Hilary Clinton, his Democratic competitor for the White House.

Prosecutors say the attempt at damage control resulted in hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels, a former adult film star who claimed she had a sexual connection with Trump.

The Manhattan District Attorney claimed that Donald Trump fabricated corporate paperwork to conceal the payments and that the payments were part of a larger plot to influence the 2016 election.

Prosecutors’ Claims and Donald Trump’s Denial

Trump, the presumptive Republican contender in 2024, has denied having an affair with Daniels. He has been charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business paperwork linked to payments made to Daniels, making him the first former president in US history to face criminal charges.

The falsification allegations are primarily about the alleged mislabelling of repayments made by Trump to his lawyer, Michael Cohen, who had fronted the $130,000 given to Daniels in exchange for silence.

However, for the felony charges to stand, prosecutors must persuade a jury that the misrepresentations were made to commit another crime.

In his opening words on Monday, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo stated that prosecutors will focus on an alleged larger plan to “undermine the integrity” of the 2016 presidential election.

Todd Blanche, Trump’s lawyer, said that attempting to influence an election is not improper, claiming the former president is innocent. “It’s called democracy.”

On Tuesday, prosecutors began questioning David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer and a close friend of Trump, to establish a pattern of his behavior.

Aside from the payments to Daniels, prosecutors have described two other instances in which Trump allegedly attempted to suppress unfavorable reports through his relationship with Pecker, who publishes the tabloid notorious for publishing details of scandalous celebrity affairs and misbehavior.

The payments included $150,000 from American Media, the parent company of the National Enquirer, to Karen McDougal, who also claimed an affair with Trump. The corporation has admitted that the payment was made intentionally to buy and conceal the story.

American Media also paid a Trump Tower doorman $30,000 for a report alleging that Trump had fathered an unmarried kid.

The defense has maintained that neither hush money payments nor so-called “catch and kill” strategies are inherently criminal.

Prosecutors had claimed that the coordination between Pecker and Trump, as well as the timing of the catch-and-kill scheme in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential election, when Donald Trump was dealing with the political fallout from a separate scandal, were evidence of a greater criminal effort under New York law “to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means”.

They have also claimed that records relating to the hush money were falsified to conceal violations of federal campaign finance law and New York state tax law.

However, before any witnesses took the stand on Tuesday, the proceedings opened with a discussion of a gag order Judge Juan Merchan imposed on Trump last month. The order barred the former president from speaking or posting about any of the potential witnesses in the trial.

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Prosecutors claimed Donald Trump had regularly breached the order and urged Merchan to take action against him.

The defense contended that Donald Trump’s social media posts were a defense against personal attacks.

In one exchange, Judge Merchan told Trump’s lawyer Blanche, “You’re losing all credibility with the court.”

During a pause, Donald Trump condemned the judge as “highly conflicted” on his Truth Social platform.

“Everybody is allowed to talk and lie about me, but I am not allowed to defend myself?” he said. “This is a kangaroo court; the judge should recuse himself.”

While Donald Trump faces three additional criminal proceedings, only the New York trial will conclude before the November election.

Donald Trump is facing accusations in Georgia for allegedly pressuring election officials to manipulate the state’s vote count for the 2020 election.

He is facing a federal criminal case in Florida for allegedly removing classified information from the White House and a separate federal case in Washington, DC, for alleged attempts to reverse the 2020 election results.

Arsi Mughal is a staff writer at CTN News, delivering insightful and engaging content on a wide range of topics. With a knack for clear and concise writing, he crafts articles that resonate with readers. Arsi's pieces are well-researched, informative, and presented in a straightforward manner, making complex subjects accessible to a broad audience. His writing style strikes the perfect balance between professionalism and casual approachability, ensuring an enjoyable reading experience.

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