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Donald Trump’s hush money trial: the key players

Donald Trump is the first former US president to face criminal trial and his defence as well as New York prosecutors have presented their opening arguments in the closely-watched case.

The trial is a watershed moment for the country, coming in the run up to November’s election, and it could feature several high-profile witnesses and explosive, salacious testimony.

Here are the key characters linked to the trial, which focuses on an alleged hush money payment to a porn star and Mr Trump’s alleged business fraud as part of a plan to cover up those payments.

Donald Trump

Mr Trump’s successful 2016 run for the White House is at the heart of the case.

Prosecutors allege that as he closed in on victory, he paid $130,000 to adult film actor Stormy Daniels to cover up a sexual encounter she claims Mr Trump had with her in 2006.

That in itself may not have been a crime.

But prosecutors allege Donald Trump and his lawyer Michael Cohen then engaged in a conspiracy to cover up the payments, illicitly concealing the transactions as legal payments in the Trump Organization’s accounts.

Mr Trump must be present throughout the trial, which will largely keep him off the campaign trail as he runs for the White House again.

Stormy Daniels

Stormy Daniels says she met Donald Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006

Ms Daniels, an adult film star and director whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, says she and Mr Trump met at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006.

She claims they went to Mr Trump’s hotel room where they had sex and the tycoon suggested she appear on his hit TV show, “The Apprentice.”

Mr Trump denies this ever happened, setting up a possible clash between her and his attorneys as she is expected to testify.

Spurned insider Michael Cohen

Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, who never denied his “pitbull” moniker, has become a sworn enemy of the ex-president and will be the prosecution’s star witness.

Michael Cohen is expected to lay out his former boss’s alleged involvement to the jury

Mr Cohen paid the $130,000 to Ms Daniels, Mr Trump’s request, he insists, and he has a federal conviction for doing so.

He is expected to lay out his former boss’s alleged involvement to the jury, but the defence portrayed him as a “criminal” convicted of making false statements to the US Congress who has “a desire to see president Trump go to jail”.

Prosecutor Alvin Bragg

A self-described “child of Harlem” who fell victim to heavy-handed New York Police Department tactics as a teen, Alvin Bragg went on to study at Harvard and in January 2022 became the first African-American Manhattan district attorney.

Alvin Bragg also led the prosecution at the Trump Organization tax fraud trial

Elected on the Democratic ticket, he inherited the Trump case and was initially criticised for allegedly seeking to bury it, before indicting the former president.

Mr Bragg also led the prosecution at the Trump Organization tax fraud trial, which resulted in the business group’s criminal conviction in 2022.

Judge Juan Merchan

Judge Juan Merchan is a respected magistrate in his 60s, the child of Colombian parents who moved with him to the United States.

He has a reputation among lawyers for being fair but firm.

Donald Trump accused Judge Merchan of being unable to assure a fair trial because his daughter worked for a campaign organisation linked to Democrats

The case is not being heard on Wednesdays as Judge Merchan will attend to his duties on Manhattan’s Mental Health courts.

He has already drawn Mr Trump’s ire, with the former president repeatedly attacking the judge for alleged bias.

Donald Trump accused Judge Merchan of being unable to assure a fair trial because his daughter worked for a campaign organisation linked to Democrats.

That prompted the judge to expand a gag order, in place to prevent Mr Trump from attacking jurors and court staff, including his own family.

The lawyers

Yesterday, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo presented the prosecution’s opening statements, bluntly describing “a criminal conspiracy and a coverup” and accusing Donald Trump of lying about his business records.

Todd Blanche previously spent ten years as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan

Mr Colangelo is a former US Justice Department official who has already locked horns with Trumpworld, having earlier led the New York attorney general’s civil inquiry into Mr Trump.

Mr Trump’s attorneys, Susan Necheles and Todd Blanche, are seasoned lawyers experienced in white-collar criminal law.

Mr Blanche previously spent ten years as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan.

In the defence’s opening statement, he declared Mr Trump innocent, saying his client “had nothing to do with” any of the 34 counts against him.


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