“President Trump had nothing to do, had nothing to do with the invoice, with the check being generated, or with the entry on the ledger,” he said.

Blanche didn’t dispute the paper trail existed, but he argued to the jury there was nothing illegal about signing non-disclosure agreements – or with trying to influence an election.

“I have a spoiler alert: There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It’s called democracy,” he added.

Blanche also began his efforts to discredit Cohen’s testimony, which will be a significant factor in the ultimate outcome of the case. Blanche said that Cohen has an “obsession with getting President Trump” and noted that even last night he was still posting on social media about Trump.

“His entire financial livelihood depends on President Trump’s destruction,” Blanche said. “You cannot make a serious decision about President Trump relying on the words of Michael Cohen.”

At the end of his statement, Blanche asked the jurors to use “common sense” and said he was confident they would find a not guilty verdict.

“You told all of us, you told the court, you told me, you will put aside whatever views you have of President Trump,” Blanche said as he ended his opening statement.


Custom Photo Donald Trump Mug TA29 62481

Custom Photo Donald Trump Mug TA29 62481


Tabloid publisher in alleged ‘catch and kill’ scheme testifies first

Prosecutors called former AMI CEO David Pecker as the first witness in their case against Trump. He testified for less than 30 minutes Monday morning before the trial adjourned for the day. He’s expected to continue testifying Tuesday.

Calling Pecker a co-conspirator during his opening statement, Colangelo teed up the former tabloid publisher as a key player in Trump’s “catch and kill” scheme to control the public narrative about him ahead of the 2016 election.

Prosecutors allege that an August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower with Pecker and Cohen sparked the conspiracy that ultimately led to the criminal charges against Trump. They claim Pecker agreed to act as the “eyes and ears of the campaign” gathering information from tabloid sources.

The scheme, the prosecutor said, was three-pronged: AMI would publish flattering stories about Trump, publish hit stories on Trump’s political opponents and kill negative stories that could harm Trump’s campaign. The “catch and kill” practice was at the “core” of the conspiracy, Colangelo told the jury.

Pecker is expected to later testify about the scheme and his role in orchestrating two nondisclosure agreements for negative stories about Trump. Pecker’s AMI paid Karen McDougal – who was alleging an affair with Trump in the months before the 2016 election – $150,000 for the rights to her story. (Trump has denied the affairs.)

As Pecker stepped down from the jury box, he smiled and said “hi” to Trump’s table.

Trump was thinking about the $175 million bond hearing down the street

As opening statements got underway in criminal court, other lawyers for Trump were in a courtroom a block away arguing over the legitimacy of the $175 million bond Trump posted to appeal the judgment in his civil fraud trial, where the former president was found liable for fraudulently inflating his asset values to obtain better loan terms.

Trump, who could not attend the civil hearing because he’s required to attend each day of the criminal trial, railed against Attorney General Letitia James on his way in and out of the courtroom Monday.

At the hearing, Trump’s attorneys came to an agreement with the New York attorney general’s office on the terms of that $175 million bond. James’ team had previously challenged the bond, questioning the financial wherewithal of the underwriter, Knight Specialty Insurance Company.

Trump’s attorneys representing him in the civil matter later stopped by the criminal trial and spoke to cameras in the hallway outside the courtroom where Trump sat at the defense table.

“He should not have two teams of lawyers here today,” Alina Habba said. “He should not even be here today, because he did nothing wrong. It is an epitome of a witch hunt.”


Trump Mug With America Flag Personalized Gift TA29 62471

Trump Mug With America Flag Personalized Gift TA29 62471


Gag order hearing will lead off court on Tuesday

Before the trial resumes Tuesday, Merchan is holding a hearing on allegations that Trump violated the judge’s gag order barring discussion of witnesses.

The district attorney’s office asked the judge to fine Trump $1,000 for each of several gag order violations leading up to and since the trial started. In addition to the fines, prosecutors want the judge to remind Trump he could be imprisoned if he continues to disobey the judge’s order.

“We think that it is important for the court to remind Mr. Trump that he is a criminal defendant,” prosecutor Chris Conroy said last week. “And like all criminal defendants he’s subject to court supervision.”

Trump’s lawyers have argued that his social media posts do not actually violate the gag order. Trump attorney Emil Bove argued last week that Cohen had been attacking Trump in “connection to the campaign” and Trump’s responses were related to the campaign.

Trump spoke about Cohen while addressing the cameras after court ended Monday. “The things he got in trouble for were things that had nothing to do with me. He got in trouble. He went to jail. This has nothing to do with me,” Trump said.

The jury has been instructed to arrive at 11 a.m. ET to begin the second day of the trial. Merchan said if arguments over the gag order were not finished by then, they would finish another time.

Court is only in session until 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday because of the Passover holiday.