Trump trial set for opening statements as he faces new legal perils on multiple fronts: Live

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After a tense week of jury selection, Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial truly gets underway on Monday morning with opening statements from the prosecution and defence.

The 12 jurors and six alternates will then begin hearing evidence against the former president and his counterargument before ultimately deciding his fate.

Judge Juan Merchan is also expected to rule on whether Mr Trump’s previous misconduct and court cases can be included in proceedings.

Mr Trump spent much of the weekend complaining about the case on Truth Social and angrily posting his presidential immunity claims — on which the Supreme Court will hear arguments this Thursday.

Elsewhere in the myriad of legal issues engulfing the former president, Monday will also see a hearing on whether to cancel Mr Trump’s $175m bond to appeal the civil fraud trial ruling and the public filing of witness statements in the classified documents case.

A planned rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, was called off at the last minute due to bad weather, with Mr Trump instead sending a recorded message to supporters. Meanwhile, Melania Trump returned to the campaign trail helping the conservative LGBT group the Log Cabin Republicans raise $1m at a Mar-a-Lago dinner.

Key Points

Kristi Noem says abortion ban should have no exceptions for rape or incest

22:15 , Oliver O'Connell

During a Sunday morning appearance on CNN, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem was asked whether she thinks there should be exceptions for survivors of rape and incest when it came to abortion laws.

Apparently, she does not.

Trump VP contender Kristi Noem says no exceptions for rape or incest in abortion ban

Hush money trial: Who will be the first witness?

21:45 , Oliver O'Connell

MSNBC legal correspondent Lisa Rubin also tweeted on Saturday night that there is another reason to keep focus on the hush money trial as it really gets underway tomorrow — namely, who will be the first witness...

She writes: “If I’m telling this story chronologically, the person I’d call first is this guy on the right, former American Media chairman David Pecker.

“According to the Manhattan DA’s statement of facts accompanying the indictment, the story begins with Trump’s infamous ride down the [escalator] in June 2015, when he declared his candidacy for president.

“But ‘soon after,’ in August 2015, Trump and Cohen met with Pecker, who offered to serve as the campaign’s “eyes and ears” to help Trump—and hurt his rivals—through the National Enquirer’s coverage.

“That American Media made good on its promises is important, especially since it admitted to certain conduct through a non-prosecution agreement with DOJ in 2018 and this “conciliation agreement” with the Federal Election Commission in 2021.

“But even more significant? Pecker can testify that Trump not only understood but heartily endorsed his publication’s offer to ‘catch and kill’ negative stories about him, especially as they pertained to Trump’s alleged extramarital affairs.

“And given how few people outside Michael Cohen directly communicated with Trump about the scheme at issue, Pecker’s testimony could be critical in establishing Trump’s intent and knowledge. FIN.”

Trump faces trio of legal issues tomorrow

21:15 , Oliver O'Connell

While the world’s focus will be on the courthouse in Lower Manhattan tomorrow awaiting opening statements in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, MSNBC legal correspondent Lisa Rubin notes that it isn’t the only legal issue facing the former president on Monday.

She posted on X: “I’ll be watching three legal stories unfold Monday: the real opening of the Manhattan DA’s trial; the hearing on whether to cancel Trump’s $175 million bond; & the public filing of witness statements in the MAL docs case.”

We’ve written extensively about Mr Trump’s “calendar of chaos” and how each case not only overlaps with the others but also interrupts his 2024 campaigning.

Nevertheless, there are likely to be many days like this going forward. Here’s the latest on the $175m bond from the former president’s civil fraud trial:

Trump’s $175m bond in fraud case should be voided, says New York attorney general

Trump lawyers claim prosecutors want to ‘distract’ from hush money trial with other cases

20:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Woodward writes:

Attorneys for Donald Trump told a judge overseeing the former president’s hush money trial on Friday that Manhattan prosecutors are merely trying to “distract” jurors and “pile things on” by introducing evidence from his string of other criminal and civil cases.

New York Justice Juan Merchan presided over a hearing to outline what prosecutors intend to ask Mr Trump if he chooses to testify at his criminal trial, including a defamation case and allegations of sexual abuse, a massive civil fraud judgment finding him liable for tens of millions of dollars, felony convictions targeting his business, and the dissolution of a namesake foundation used to boost his presidential campaign.

A ruling on their inclusion is expected on Monday...

Trump lawyers say prosecutors want to ’pile things on’ from other cases during trial

Trump defence team sets out its strategy on eve of opening statements in hush money trial

20:20 , Oliver O'Connell

Kelly Rissman reports:

A member of Donald Trump’s legal team divulged the defence’s plan to “focus on the facts” to show that the former president did nothing wrong, one day before the opening arguments are set to begin in the landmark hush money trial.

Mr Trump is now standing criminal trial — the first president or ex-president ever to do so — over 34 counts of falsifying business records related to payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election in exchange for her silence over an alleged affair. He has denied any wrongdoing.

A full panel of jurors was seated on Friday in Manhattan criminal court, meaning opening arguments could begin as soon as Monday, kicking off the second week of the trial.

“We believe the facts are absolutely on our side, that they are absolutely exonerative” of the former president, Trump attorney Will Scharf said on Fox and Friends Weekend on Sunday.

Continue reading...

Trump team sets out its strategy on eve of opening statements in hush money trial

How long might Trump go to jail for if convicted?

19:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Should Mr Trump ultimately be found guilty, he could theoretically face more than a decade in prison, according to CNN chief legal analyst Laura Coates, who points out that the felony counts against Mr Trump are classified as Class E crimes in New York, which are the lowest level felonies in the state.

But there’s a little more to it than that, as Joe Sommerlad reports:

What prison sentence could Trump face if he is convicted at his hush money trial?

Will Trump’s hush money trial be on TV?

19:15 , Oliver O'Connell

[Spoiler alert: No. You have to follow this blog. You’re welcome.]

Will Trump’s hush money trial be televised?

Michael Avenatti says he would now testify for Trump

18:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Michael Avenatti, the disgraced former lawyer for Stormy Daniels, has said that he is in touch with Donald Trump’s legal defence team and is willing to testify on behalf of the former president at his hush money trial.

“The defence has contacted me,” Avenatti told The New York Post from prison.

“I’d be more than happy to testify, I don’t know that I will be called to testify, but I have been in touch with Trump’s defence for the better part of a year.”

Avenatti is currently serving a 19-year sentence for extortion, tax evasion, fraud, embezzlement and other federal crimes at Terminal Island, a minimum-security federal prison in Los Angeles.

Read on...

Disgraced former Stormy Daniels lawyer says he would now testify for Trump

How Max Azzarello came to set himself on fire outside Trump trial

18:15 , Oliver O'Connell

Max Azzarello, 37, who died after setting himself on fire outside the Manhattan courthouse where Donald Trump is on trial, had recently started posting anti-establishment conspiracy theories online, including a lengthy article on Substack which blasted politicians, and billionaires and even made reference to The Simpsons.

The manifesto-style document warned of an impending “apocalyptic fascist world coup.”

At 1.30pm ET on Friday 19 April, he entered a park outside the New York courthouse, where Donald Trump’s historic criminal trial is taking place, and set himself on fire.

Read on...

How Max Azzarello’s ‘conspiracy theories’ led to self-immolation outside Trump trial

Watch: John Legend says of Trump that ‘in the core of his being, he is a racist'

18:10 , Oliver O'Connell

Analysis: Outside court, Trump tries to command the narrative. Inside, he can only sit in silence

17:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Woodward writes:

The city of New York is “crime-ridden and dying,” according to Donald Trump. He has called a criminal case against him a “mess,” the judge hopelessly “conflicted,” and the prosecutor a “thug.” The former president’s attorneys claim that the entire borough of Manhattan is “overwhelmingly biased” against him.

But for four days, a few dozen of his fellow New Yorkers told him how they felt, to his face, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Continue reading...

Trump tries to command the narrative. Now he can only sit in silence

Who’s who in the Trump hush money trial

17:10 , Oliver O'Connell

On Monday 15 April, Donald Trump made history as the first current or former president ever to be criminally prosecuted in America, as he went on trial in Manhattan on charges of falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments made to an adult film star before the 2016 presidential election.

The trial comes more than a year on from the landmark day when Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought a historic 34-count indictment against him, years after his office began investigating the former president’s financial statements.

Though the former president is charged with falsifying business records, Mr Bragg alleges that this was only part of a wider “catch and kill” scheme that Mr Trump engaged in to suppress negative stories as he campaigned – successfully – for the White House in 2016.

The historic trial may last up to two months and features testimony from several key players involved in the case.

Here The Independent breaks down who’s who in the trial:

Meet the key players in Trump’s hush money trial

Who are the New Yorkers who hold Trump’s fate in their hands?

16:30 , Oliver O'Connell

A teacher, two lawyers and people working in finance are among the jurors tasked with hearing the first-ever criminal trial against a US president.

This week, a pivotal process was carried out in a courtroom in Manhattan to select the group of jurors in the so-called hush money case against Donald Trump, as he faces charges of falsifying business records to conceal payments to an adult film star ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

During the first four days of the historic trial in a New York City courtroom, the former president snapped awake from the defence table and craned his neck to get a good view of the jury box and the pool of New Yorkers who could ultimately convict him of a crime.

Mr Trump has repeatedly tried, and failed, to move the case out of the borough, where he baselessly smeared the borough as hopelessly biased against him.

And so, during jury selection in the trial, he sat and heard firsthand from a group of Manhattan residents who pledged that they would be fair and impartial in hearing the case against him.

Continue reading the full article...

Melania Trump hosts fundraiser for Republican LGBT group

16:05 , Oliver O'Connell

Melania Trump has returned to the campaign trail in support of her husband’s 2024 run, hosting a fundraiser for the Log Cabin Republicans group on Saturday at her Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida.

The group describes itself as “the nation’s largest Republican organisation dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies”.

The event’s host committee includes Republican donors Saul Fox and Amanda Schumacher and Richard Grenell – who served as the 45th president’s ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence – as well as Elizabeth Ailes and Deborah Magowan, the widows of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and San Francisco Giants owner Peter Magowan respectively.

Mr Grenell posted pictures of the event to his Instagram account:

Trump’s hush money trial: Where things stand today

15:45 , Oliver O'Connell

All 12 jurors and six alternates have been seated for Donald Trump’s first criminal trial, which will begin in earnest on Monday with opening arguments.

Five final alternate jurors were selected on Friday, concluding a four-day week of jury selection to begin the first-ever criminal trial of an American president.

The former president, craning his neck to watch a final pool of potential jurors, leaned forward in his chair and scribbled notes at the defence table as a group of Manhattan residents were quizzed about their opinions of him.

“I believe we have a full panel,” New York Justice Juan Merchan told the courtroom on Friday afternoon, after seating five alternates.

Alex Woodward explains what happens next:

All 18 jurors and alternates seated in Trump’s hush money trial

New York Post roasts ‘Moscow Marjorie’ over opposition to Ukraine aid bill

15:25 , Oliver O'Connell

The New York Post has roasted Marjorie Taylor Greene over her opposition to aid for Ukraine to help defend itself against Russia. Using a quote from former Republican Rep Ken Buck, the News Corp-owned tabloid — famous for its front pages — refers to the Georgia Republican rep as “Moscow Marjorie”.

Here’s Mr Buck on CNN on Friday explaining that Ms Greene is “just mouthing the Russian propaganda”:

The Georgia lawmaker has fought vociferously against aiding the US ally in its fight against Vladimir Putin’s war — now in its second year.

On Saturday she was furious after the House of Representatives passed the $60bn aid package for Ukraine, which heads to the Senate on Tuesday.

Watch: Noem says she will support Trump even if convicted

14:50 , Oliver O'Connell

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem — currently auditioning to be Donald Trump’s running mate — tells CNN’s Dana Bash that she would still support the former president even if he was criminally convicted.

Prosecutors want to ‘distract’ from hush money trial with other cases, Trump lawyers claim

14:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Woodward explains:

Attorneys for Donald Trump told a judge overseeing the former president’s hush money trial on Friday that Manhattan prosecutors are merely trying to “distract” jurors and “pile things on” by introducing evidence from his string of other criminal and civil cases.

New York Justice Juan Merchan presided over a hearing to outline what prosecutors intend to ask Mr Trump if he chooses to testify at his criminal trial, including a defamation case and allegations of sexual abuse, a massive civil fraud judgment finding him liable for tens of millions of dollars, felony convictions targeting his business, and the dissolution of a namesake foundation used to boost his presidential campaign.

But the judge said that prosecutors’ request falls within the grounds of the so-called Sandoval hearing, during which a defendant with a history of misconduct or criminal acts who also plans to testify in his defence knows what they could be walking into.

Continue reading...

Trump lawyers say prosecutors want to ’pile things on’ from other cases during trial

Trump forced to cancel first public address in North Carolina since New York trial

14:12 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump was forced to cancel his scheduled rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, as skies darkened and a rain storm approached the airport.

It was his first planned rally since the start of his criminal hush money trial.

Mr Trump called into the rally site near the Wilmington airport less than an hour before he was scheduled to take the stage and apologised to a few thousand supporters who had gathered throughout.

“I’m devastated that this could happen but we want to keep everybody safe,” MrTrump said, as his message was amplified by speakers to his supporters.

“I think we’re gonna have to just do a rain check. I’m so sad,” Mr Trump said.

Mr Trump promised a “bigger and better” rally to around 7,000 and 8,000 people who had gathered at the Aero Center at Wilmington airport.

Storm clouds hang over a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate and former US President Donald Trump, shortly before the event was postponed (REUTERS)
Storm clouds hang over a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate and former US President Donald Trump, shortly before the event was postponed (REUTERS)

Analysis: Ukraine aid finally passes the Republican House but may cost the GOP speaker his job

14:00 , Oliver O'Connell

John Bowden in Washington, DC reporting for The Independent writes:

Lawmakers in Washington DC have finally passed military aid for Ukraine through the GOP-controlled House following months of delays.

The $60.8bn package, part of a three-part national security supplemental that passed the Senate in February, now heads back to the upper chamber for a final vote on Tuesday.

It then heads to Joe Biden’s desk for signature. Republicans and Democrats in the upper chamber pressed their House colleagues to pass the legislation for months, citing Ukraine’s increasingly desperate situation, but the lower chamber took its time and quibbled over the bill’s intricacies, eventually splitting it into three parts and turning much of the aid to Ukraine into a loan system.

Even with that change it was a political defeat for Republicans in the House, who took public criticism from GOP members of the Senate including Mitch McConnell for weeks and eventually passed the legislation while relying on Democratic support to see it past the finish line.

Worse, Speaker Mike Johnson comes out of this ordeal at the lowest point of his speakership (so far).

Continue reading...

Ukraine aid finally passes the Republican House but may cost the GOP speaker his job

Analysis: Outside court, Trump tries to command the narrative. Inside, he can only sit in silence

13:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Woodward writes:

The city of New York is “crime-ridden and dying,” according to Donald Trump. He has called a criminal case against him a “mess,” the judge hopelessly “conflicted,” and the prosecutor a “thug.” The former president’s attorneys claim that the entire borough of Manhattan is “overwhelmingly biased” against him.

But for four days, a few dozen of his fellow New Yorkers told him how they felt, to his face, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Read on...

Trump tries to command the narrative. Now he can only sit in silence

How Trump’s trial dates and the 2024 election overlap

12:00 , Oliver O'Connell

In a typical presidential election year, candidates will spend the 11 months leading up to election day shaking hands and kissing babies at rallies as the primaries unfold.

But nothing is typical when it comes to Donald Trump.

Instead, the ex-president will be forced to juggle his campaign for the White House while also defending himself in federal and state courts in four different cases that have hearings and trial dates scattered throughout 2024.

Ariana Baio takes a look at his hectic schedule:

How Trump’s trial dates and the 2024 election overlap

No, Trump didn’t storm out of court

10:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump’s campaign appears to once again be falsely characterising the former president’s exit from his New York criminal trial, claiming that he “stormed” out of the courtroom on Friday.

But a reporter from The Independent, present throughout proceedings this week, says that such details – contained in a message sent out by the campaign after court was adjourned – were not entirely accurate.

Read on...

Trump campaign falsely claimed twice this week that he’s ‘stormed’ out of court

Max Azzarello posted conspiracies online. He died after setting himself on fire outside Trump’s trial

09:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Mike Bedigan and Kelly Rissman report:

Max Azzarello, 37, who died after setting himself on fire outside the Manhattan courthouse, had recently started posting anti-establishment conspiracy theories online, including a lengthy article on Substack which blasted politicians, and billionaires and even made reference to The Simpsons.

The manifesto-style document warned of an impending “apocalyptic fascist world coup.”

At 1.30pm ET on Friday 19 April, he entered a park outside the New York courthouse, where Donald Trump’s historic criminal trial is taking place, and set himself on fire.

Continue reading...

How Max Azzarello’s ‘conspiracy theories’ led to self-immolation outside Trump trial

Prospective juror excused after raising comparisons between Trump and Berlusconi

07:30 , Oliver O'Connell

One of the potential jurors being considered for selection in the New York criminal trial of Donald Trump was excused on Thursday after noting media comparisons between the former president and disgraced Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Mike Bedigan and Alex Woodward report:

Prospective juror excused after comparisons between Trump and Silvio Berlusconi

In depth: Can these ex-Trump voters swing it for Biden?

05:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Andrew Feinberg writes:

Conventional political wisdom regarding Donald Trump states that the people who voted for him in 2016 and 2020 aren’t likely to go for any Democrat this time around — especially not Joe Biden.

But a prominent group of anti-Trump Republicans believes those two-time Trump voters are best positioned to convince others in the GOP to vote to re-elect Biden. And they’re ready to spend big to do so.

Continue reading...

‘The guy lost his mind since I voted for him’: The ex-Trump voters going for Biden

Trump forced to cancel first public address in North Carolina since New York trial

05:11 , Shweta Sharma

Donald Trump was forced to cancel his scheduled rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, as skies darkened and a rain storm approached the airport.

It was his first planned rally since the start of his criminal hush money trial.

Mr Trump called into the rally site near the Wilmington airport less than an hour before he was scheduled to take the stage and apologised to a few thousand supporters who had gathered throughout.

“I’m devastated that this could happen but we want to keep everybody safe,” MrTrump said, as his message was amplified by speakers to his supporters.

“I think we’re gonna have to just do a rain check. I’m so sad,” Mr Trump said.

Mr Trump promised a “bigger and better” rally to around 7,000 and 8,000 people who had gathered at the Aero Center at Wilmington airport.

Storm clouds hang over a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump, shortly before the event was postponed (REUTERS)
Storm clouds hang over a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump, shortly before the event was postponed (REUTERS)

Trump fraud trial: NY AG says $175m bond should be voided

03:30 , Oliver O'Connell

New York Attorney General Letitia James has asked the judge in Donald Trump’s civil fraud case to void the $175m bond posted previously by the former president, after questioning whether the insurance company has sufficient funds to back it up.

Mr Trump’s bond was posted by California-based Knight Specialty Insurance Company (KSIC), and Ms James raised concerns that the insurer was “not authorised” to write business in New York.

Mike Bedigan reports:

Trump’s $175m bond in fraud case should be voided, says New York attorney general

The big question: Will Trump go to prison?

02:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump faces four criminal indictments in four separate jurisdictions.

Nearly 100 felony criminal charges have been levelled against the former president, who remains the presumptive nominee to be the Republican Party’s presidential candidate once more in 2024.

As his legal battles grow more complex by the day, a serious question has emerged: what happens if Mr Trump wins the nomination and campaigns for the general election as a convicted criminal?

That possibility, in turn, raises another simpler question: could the 45th president of the United States go to prison?

John Bowden explores the possibilities:

Will Donald Trump go to prison?

In pictures: Trump’s first week in criminal court

01:30 , Oliver O'Connell

It may have only been one week. But trial has already proven eventful.

Mr Trump has allegedly dozed off, has been scolded by the judge for “intimidating” a juror, and has gotten to hear what New Yorkers really think of him. Outside the courthouse, protesters and supporters made their views known, while – in a horrifying incident on Friday afternoon – a man set himself on fire.

Here is Mr Trump’s landmark trial in photos:

Donald Trump’s first week of criminal trial in pictures

What is a ‘stealth juror’ and how might they throw the trial?

Sunday 21 April 2024 00:30 , Oliver O'Connell

One of the top priorities for both sides in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial will be to root out potential “stealth jurors” – those who claim to be impartial but who have hidden their biases to get on a jury and possibly derail a trial.

Continue reading...

Could a stealth juror derail Trump’s trial?

How has Trump tried to defend himself against the hush money trial charges?

Saturday 20 April 2024 23:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Former president Donald Trump’s legal team has used various defences for — and attempts to delay — his hush money case in which he is accused of 34 counts of falsifying business records.

So far, none of them have worked, as Kelly Rissman explains:

Hush money trial: All the wild defences Trump has given so far

Analysis: Ukraine aid finally passes the Republican House but may cost the GOP speaker his job

Saturday 20 April 2024 22:45 , Oliver O'Connell

John Bowden in Washington, DC reporting for The Independent writes:

Lawmakers in Washington DC have finally passed military aid for Ukraine through the GOP-controlled House following months of delays.

The $60.8bn package, part of a three-part national security supplemental that passed the Senate in February, now heads back to the upper chamber for a final vote on Tuesday.

It then heads to Joe Biden’s desk for signature. Republicans and Democrats in the upper chamber pressed their House colleagues to pass the legislation for months, citing Ukraine’s increasingly desperate situation, but the lower chamber took its time and quibbled over the bill’s intricacies, eventually splitting it into three parts and turning much of the aid to Ukraine into a loan system.

Even with that change it was a political defeat for Republicans in the House, who took public criticism from GOP members of the Senate including Mitch McConnell for weeks and eventually passed the legislation while relying on Democratic support to see it past the finish line.

Worse, Speaker Mike Johnson comes out of this ordeal at the lowest point of his speakership (so far).

Continue reading...

Ukraine aid finally passes the Republican House but may cost the GOP speaker his job

Disgraced former Stormy Daniels lawyer says he would now testify for Trump

Saturday 20 April 2024 22:13 , Oliver O'Connell

Michael Avenatti, the disgraced former lawyer for Stormy Daniels, has said that he is in touch with Donald Trump’s legal defence team and is willing to testify on behalf of the former president at his hush money trial.

“The defence has contacted me,” Avenatti told The New York Post from prison.

“I’d be more than happy to testify, I don’t know that I will be called to testify, but I have been in touch with Trump’s defence for the better part of a year.”

Avenatti is currently serving a 19-year sentence for extortion, tax evasion, fraud, embezzlement and other federal crimes at Terminal Island, a minimum-security federal prison in Los Angeles.

Continue reading...

Disgraced former Stormy Daniels lawyer says he would now testify for Trump

Who are the New Yorkers with Trump’s fate in their hands?

Saturday 20 April 2024 21:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Woodward reports:

A teacher, two lawyers and people working in finance are among the 12 jurors tasked with hearing the first-ever criminal trial against a president.

A pivotal process is now under way in Manhattan to select the group of jurors in the so-called hush money case against Donald Trump, as he faces charges of falsifying business records to conceal payments to an adult film star ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

During the first two days of the historic trial in a New York City courtroom, the former president snapped awake from the defence table and craned his neck to get a good view of the jury box and the pool of New Yorkers who could ultimately convict him of a crime.

Read on...

Who are the jurors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial?

Trump presidential immunity tirade continues with threat to Biden

Saturday 20 April 2024 21:20 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump has continued his Truth Social tirade about presidential immunity with an apparent threat to President Joe Biden that he will be prosecuted for his “actual crimes” if the former president wins back the White House.

Here’s what Mr Trump wrote on Truth Social this afternoon (among many other posts on the same topic):

REMEMBER, if I don’t have Presidential Immunity, then Crooked Joe Biden doesn’t have it either, and he would certainly be Prosecuted for his many ACTUAL CRIMES, including illegally receiving massive amounts of money from Foreign Countries, including China, Ukraine, and Russia, paying off Ukraine to fire an unfriendly prosecutor, allowing millions of people to illegally Enter and Destroy our Country, SURRENDERING in Afghanistan, with Hundreds Dead, many Americans Left Behind, and handing over Billions of Dollars Worth of the Best Military Equipment anywhere on Earth, the Decimation of American Wealth through the Green New Scam, and so much more. REMEMBER, Crooked Joe Biden and his CORRUPT JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, D.A.’s and A.G.’s, has attacked his Political Opponent at a level never seen before in this Country, and wants desperately to PUT “TRUMP” IN PRISON. He is playing a very dangerous game, and the great people of America WILL NOT STAND FOR IT. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!

There is no evidence that Mr Biden received any money from foreign countries (see the disastrous Republican-led House impeachment inquiry) or paid off Ukraine.

The allegations regarding the border and Afghanistan would presumably fall under existing presidential immunity and are not technically crimes (and the allegations here appear factually flawed).

There is no decimation of American wealth through “the Green New Scam”, indeed the economy is far outpacing that of any other developed nation, unemployment is at record lows, and the stock market is at record highs.

Finally, Joe Biden has no jurisdiction or influence over criminal indictments brought against Mr Trump at the local or state level (Manhattan and Georgia).

At the federal level, the Department of Justice handed its two investigations (into the classified documents in Florida and the events leading up to January 6 in Washington, DC) over to Special Counsel Jack Smith for the very purpose of avoiding a conflict of interest and to depoliticise the process.

Further, all four Trump criminal cases were assessed by members of the public in their respective grand juries.

Saturday 20 April 2024 21:15 , Oliver O'Connell

House passes potential TikTok ban

Saturday 20 April 2024 21:05 , Oliver O'Connell

John Bowden reports from Washington, DC:

Congress took another step towards banning the popular video sharing app TikTok on Saturday when the House took its second swing at passing legislation to address what lawmakers claim is a national security threat.

The House of Representatives voted 360-58 on a bill that included a provision that would force TikTok’s owner ByteDance to sell the company within a year or see it removed from app stores in the US. It would still allow users to access to app from other sources.

Chinese officials are widely expected to block any attempt by ByteDance to sell the app.

Continue reading...

House passes potential TikTok ban that Biden says he’ll sign

Senate to take up procedural votes on foreign aid package on Tuesday

Saturday 20 April 2024 21:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Watch: Speaker Johnson asked why Ukraine aid delayed for so long

Saturday 20 April 2024 20:52 , Oliver O'Connell

100,000 poll watchers and attorneys ready for election day, Trump campaign claims

Saturday 20 April 2024 20:45 , Oliver O'Connell

The Trump campaign has announced that they will have 100,000 poll watchers and attorneys ready to take action on election day as former president Donald Trump’s obsession with election security continues.

Mr Trump tried to overturn the 2020 election citing baseless allegations of fraud by Democrats, and he has made similarly evidence-free claims regarding what Democrats may do this November. Even in 2016, Mr Trump asserted that he only lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because of fraud.

The Trump Campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) said in a Friday statement that they would launch “the most extensive and monumental election integrity program in the nation’s history”.

Gustaf Kilander reports:

Trump campaign announces 100,000 poll watchers and attorneys poised for election day

Saturday 20 April 2024 20:40 , Oliver O'Connell

Giuliani bankruptcy creditors fire off subpoenas to try to establish whether Trump owes him money

Saturday 20 April 2024 20:20 , Oliver O'Connell

Kelly Rissman reports for The Independent:

Creditors in disgraced former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s bankruptcy case have issued subpoenas to his associates to try to determine whether his former client Donald Trump owes him money, as the ex-mayor has previously claimed.

The Committee of Unsecured Creditors — individuals and entities that Mr Giuliani owes — served more than a dozen subpoenas on Friday in an effort to recover his assets. Mr Giuliani filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after being hit with a massive $148m verdict for defaming two election workers.

The former Trump lawyer listed a “possible claim for unpaid legal fees against Donald J Trump” in a January bankruptcy court filing.

Read more...

Giuliani creditors issue subpoenas to try to establish if Trump owes him money

Saturday 20 April 2024 20:15 , Oliver O'Connell

Why did George Santos show up outside Trump trial court?

Saturday 20 April 2024 20:10 , Oliver O'Connell

Disgraced former congressman George Santos surprised reporters and bystanders on Thursday when he showed up outside the court where Donald Trump is on criminal trial.

Katie Hawkinson reports:

Why did George Santos show up outside Trump trial court?

Trump continues to rage post about presidential immunity

Saturday 20 April 2024 19:57 , Oliver O'Connell

At some point, Donald Trump will certainly have lots to say about the four bills that just passed the House of Representatives and the fury of his key allies in Congress about Speaker Mike Johnson.

However, until then, he’s still stuck on presidential immunity:

Without Presidential Immunity, the Presidency will lose its power and prestige, and under some Leaders, have no power at all. The Presidency will be consumed by the other Branches of Government. THAT IS NOT WHAT OUR FOUNDERS WANTED!

And has gone back to full caps-lock:

IF THEY TAKE AWAY MY PRESIDENTIAL IMMUNITY, THEY TAKE AWAY CROOKED JOE BIDEN’S PRESIDENTIAL IMMUNITY.

As it stands, presidential immunity covers actions relating to the official duties of the president. It does not cover unofficial conduct, criminal conduct, or conduct prior to entering office.

Here’s Special Counsel Jack Smith arguing why the Supreme Court should reject the former president’s immunity argument:

Jack Smith urges Supreme Court to reject Trump’s ‘unprecedented’ immunity claim

Biden hails passage of national security package

Saturday 20 April 2024 19:40 , Oliver O'Connell

Statement from President Joe Biden on House Passage of the National Security Package

Today, members of both parties in the House voted to advance our national security interests and send a clear message about the power of American leadership on the world stage. At this critical inflection point, they came together to answer history’s call, passing urgently-needed national security legislation that I have fought for months to secure.

This package will deliver critical support to Israel and Ukraine; provide desperately needed humanitarian aid to Gaza, Sudan, Haiti, and other locations impacted by conflicts and natural disasters around the world; and bolster security and stability in the Indo-Pacific. It comes at a moment of grave urgency, with Israel facing unprecedented attacks from Iran, and Ukraine under continued bombardment from Russia. I want to thank Speaker Johnson, Leader Jeffries, and the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in the House who voted to put our national security first. I urge the Senate to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs.

Full story: Congress finally passes $60.8bn billion Ukraine aid bill as speaker’s fate hangs in the balance

Saturday 20 April 2024 19:30 , Oliver O'Connell

John Bowden reports for The Independent from Washington, DC:

The House of Representatives finally passed aid for Ukraine on Saturday in a move that could threaten Speaker Mike Johnson’s political future.

Members voted 311-112 to pass the $60.8bn package, which the Senate had previously passed. The legislation’s successful passage elicited cheers and waving of Ukrainian flags on the House floor, as well as chants of “Slava Ukraini!”. Angry conservatives fumed at their colleagues after the vote, with one speaking into the mic: “Put those damn flags away!”.

Passage of the three foreign aid bills through the Senate is slated to take place on Tuesday, per Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The two other portions of the national security supplemental package, dealing with Israel and Taiwan, both passed with significant bipartisan margins.

Continue reading...

Congress passes $60.8bn billion Ukraine aid as speaker’s fate hangs in the balance

What happened at yesterday’s ‘Sandoval’ hearing about what Trump can be asked about?

Saturday 20 April 2024 19:15 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Woodward explains:

Attorneys for Donald Trump told a judge overseeing the former president’s hush money trial on Friday that Manhattan prosecutors are merely trying to “distract” jurors and “pile things on” by introducing evidence from his string of other criminal and civil cases.

New York Justice Juan Merchan presided over a hearing to outline what prosecutors intend to ask Mr Trump if he chooses to testify at his criminal trial, including a defamation case and allegations of sexual abuse, a massive civil fraud judgment finding him liable for tens of millions of dollars, felony convictions targeting his business, and the dissolution of a namesake foundation used to boost his presidential campaign.

But the judge said that prosecutors’ request falls within the grounds of the so-called Sandoval hearing, during which a defendant with a history of misconduct or criminal acts who also plans to testify in his defence knows what they could be walking into.

Read on...

Trump lawyers say prosecutors want to ’pile things on’ from other cases during trial

House approves Israel and Gaza aid package

Saturday 20 April 2024 19:08 , Oliver O'Connell

Zelensky reacts to House passing Ukraine aid bill

Saturday 20 April 2024 19:05 , Oliver O'Connell

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has posted a message of thanks to the House of Representatives — and specifically Speaker Mike Johnson — after the passage of the $60.8 bn Ukraine aid bill.

Mr Zelensky wrote:

I am grateful to the United States House of Representatives, both parties, and personally Speaker Mike Johnson for the decision that keeps history on the right track.

Democracy and freedom will always have global significance and will never fail as long as America helps to protect it. The vital U.S. aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger.

Just peace and security can only be attained through strength.

We hope that bills will be supported in the Senate and sent to President Biden’s desk. Thank you, America!

Trump aides lose bid to dismiss charges related to classified documents hoarded at Mar-a-Lago

Saturday 20 April 2024 19:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Carlos De Oliveira and Walt Nauta were charged with multiple counts of the obstruction of justice alongside Mr Trump last year.

The two men had sought to have the charges dismissed. On Thursday a Florida judge denied them:

Read the full story here:

Trump aides lose bid to dismiss charges over hoarded Mar-a-Lago documents

House approves Ukraine aid bill

Saturday 20 April 2024 18:55 , Oliver O'Connell

Saturday 20 April 2024 18:48 , Oliver O'Connell

105-319: House defeats Spartz (R-IN) amendment to the $60.8bn Ukraine aid bill to eliminate $8bn in non-military aid to Ukraine from the legislation.

105 voting Yes were Republicans. All Democrats joined 107 Republicans in voting No.

71-351: House defeats Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) amendment to the $60.8bn Ukraine aid bill to zero out all funding for Ukraine from the Ukraine emergency supplemental.

All 71 voting Yes were Republicans.

All Democrats joined 139 Republicans in voting No.

154-272: House defeats Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL) amendment to the $60.8bn Ukraine aid bill to zero out all Out non-military aid to Ukraine.

All 154 voting Yes were Republicans.

All Democrats joined 59 Republicans in voting No.

88-336: House defeats Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy's effort to block final passage of the $60.8bn Ukraine aid bill by attempting to send it back to the Appropriations Committee.

All 88 voting Yes were Republicans.

All Democrats joined 126 Republicans in voting No.

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives...

Saturday 20 April 2024 18:40 , Oliver O'Connell

A busy day in Congress is unfolding this lunchtime.

Here’s a brief summary of what is happening.

219-213: House defeated a GOP revised border security and immigration policy bill, considered under suspension of the rules which needed a two-thirds vote for passage. 5 Democrats voted Yes with all Republicans.

249-167: House approved Nunn (R-IA) amendment to the legislation of national security measures requiring Treasury Dept. to submit a report and briefing to Congress identifying all assets of the Iranian Government or covered persons valued at more than $5m.

360-58: House passed the first of four foreign aid bills which includes legislation to force China to divest from TikTok in one year or the app faces a ban in the US. Also passed was a bill for using seized Russian assets to rebuild Ukraine (REPO Act) as well as sanctions on Russia and Iran, and for fentanyl trafficking.

385-34-1: House approved $8.1bn in foreign aid for Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific Region, the second of four national security bills the House is voting on today to be merged into one package and sent to the Senate. Tlaib (D-MI) voted Present.

Analysis: Outside court, Trump tries to command the narrative. Inside, he can only sit in silence

Saturday 20 April 2024 18:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Woodward writes:

The city of New York is “crime-ridden and dying,” according to Donald Trump. He has called a criminal case against him a “mess,” the judge hopelessly “conflicted,” and the prosecutor a “thug.” The former president’s attorneys claim that the entire borough of Manhattan is “overwhelmingly biased” against him.

But for four days, a few dozen of his fellow New Yorkers told him how they felt, to his face, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Continue reading:

Trump tries to command the narrative. Now he can only sit in silence

How long could Trump go to jail for if convicted?

Saturday 20 April 2024 18:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Should Mr Trump ultimately be found guilty, he could theoretically face more than a decade in prison, according to CNN chief legal analyst Laura Coates, who points out that the felony counts against Mr Trump are classified as Class E crimes in New York, which are the lowest level felonies in the state.

But it’s a little more complicated than that, as Joe Sommerlad explains:

What prison sentence could Trump face if he is convicted at his hush money trial?

Caps-lock off

Saturday 20 April 2024 17:40 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump is back on Truth Social, again sharing his theories on presidential immunity, this time with his caps-lock off:

If a President does not have Immunity, the Opposing Party, during his/her term in Office, can extort and blackmail the President by saying that, “if you don’t give us everything we want, we will Indict you for things you did while in Office,” even if everything done was totally Legal and Appropriate. That would be the end of the Presidency, and our Country, as we know it, and is just one of the many Traps there would be for a President without Presidential Immunity. Obama, Bush, and soon, Crooked Joe Biden, would all be in BIG TROUBLE. If a President doesn’t have IMMUNITY, he/she will be nothing more than a “Ceremonial” President, rarely having the courage to do what has to be done for our Country. This is not what the Founders had in mind! Protect Presidential Immunity. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

Special counsel Jack Smith has urged the US Supreme Court to reject Mr Trump’s “unprecedented” claim that presidential immunity protects him from facing federal charges for trying to overturn the 2020 election.

In a 66-page legal filing on 8 April, the special counsel’s office wrote that “a bedrock principle of our constitutional order is that no person is above the law — including the president”.

“The Constitution does not give a president the power to conspire to defraud the United States in the certification of presidential-election results, obstruct proceedings for doing so or deprive voters of the effect of their votes,” the filing adds.

Read more:

Jack Smith urges Supreme Court to reject Trump’s ‘unprecedented’ immunity claim

How do Trump’s trial dates and the 2024 election overlap?

Saturday 20 April 2024 17:30 , Oliver O'Connell

In a typical presidential election year, candidates will spend the 11 months leading up to election day shaking hands and kissing babies at rallies as the primaries unfold.

But nothing is typical when it comes to Donald Trump.

Instead, the ex-president will be forced to juggle his campaign for the White House while also defending himself in federal and state courts in four different cases that have hearings and trial dates scattered throughout 2024.

Ariana Baio walks us through the former president’s complicated schedule...

How Trump’s trial dates and the 2024 election overlap

With jurors selected, Trump’s trial begins Monday...

Saturday 20 April 2024 17:00 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Woodward watched proceedings in court on Friday:

All 12 jurors and six alternates have been seated for Donald Trump’s first criminal trial, which will begin in earnest on Monday with opening arguments.

Five final alternate jurors were selected on Friday, concluding a four-day week of jury selection to begin the first-ever criminal trial of an American president.

The former president, craning his neck to watch a final pool of potential jurors, leaned forward in his chair and scribbled notes at the defence table as a group of Manhattan residents were quizzed about their opinions of him.

“I believe we have a full panel,” New York Justice Juan Merchan told the courtroom on Friday afternoon, after seating five alternates.

Jurors have been instructed to return to the criminal courthouse on Monday morning, and attorneys are expected to deliver opening arguments in a case that could last up to two months.

Read on...

All 18 jurors and alternates seated in Trump’s hush money trial

Last-minute bid to halt hush money trial denied by appeals court

Saturday 20 April 2024 16:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump’s request to halt his New York hush money trial was rejected by an appeals court judge after a jury panel was selected in the historic case.

The Friday afternoon ruling came just hours after the jury of 12 people and six alternates was seated in the case, meaning opening statements can begin on Monday.

Justice Marsha Michael took just minutes to issue the ruling after a short hearing.

Graeme Massie has the story:

Trump denied last-minute request to halt hush money trial by appeals court

Melania Trump gives rare interview

Saturday 20 April 2024 16:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Melania Trump has given a rare interview to Fox News urging the country to “unite” as the 2024 campaign heats up and her husband, former President Donald Trump, faces a hush money trial in New York.

The former first lady has so far shied away from the trail during the 2024 campaign but today will attend a Mar-a-Lago event hosted by the LGBT+ group the Log Cabin Republicans.

Gustaf Kilander has the story:

Melania Trump gives rare ‘unity’ interview as her husband faces hush money trial

Watch: Trump says case against him is ‘whopping outrage'

Saturday 20 April 2024 16:15 , Oliver O'Connell

And the courtroom is “freezing”:

Coming up: Ukraine and Israel aid packages head for House vote

Saturday 20 April 2024 16:00 , Oliver O'Connell

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to advance a large foreign aid package to a final debate and floor vote on Saturday.

A bipartisan majority voted to move ahead with four bills that will send aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, as well as place fresh sanctions on Iran, seize Russian assets, and possibly ban TikTok in the US.

The vote to advance the foreign aid package comes after several days of GOP infighting among the party’s far-right and more moderate members who oppose any further aid to Ukraine.

Gustaf Kilander has the details:

Ukraine and Israel aid packages head for House vote in defiance of GOP far right

Prosecution to reveal name of one witness on Sunday night

Saturday 20 April 2024 15:45 , Oliver O'Connell

On Thursday, prosecution attorney Joshua Steinglass asked about the court’s preference for potential witnesses to be present for other witnesses’ testimony.

Defence lawyer Todd Blanche requested the names of the first three witnesses, but Steinglass says that while he would usually as a courtesy, he won’t because Trump has been threatening them on social media.

Blanche suggested that no, Trump wouldn’t do that, to which Judge Juan Merchan said that he couldn’t make that promise on behalf of the former president.

“I don’t think you can make that representation,” he said.

That’s possibly a good indicator of how next Tuesday’s hearing on the gag order violations will go...

The issue popped up again on Friday.

Trump attorney Susan Necheles asked for the name of at least one witness that prosecutors want to introduce.

“Whether you get the name or not, you’re not going to delay the trial. You won’t,” Judge Merchan said.

Steinglass said rather than giving any names then, instead, prosecutors will introduce the name of a witness who could testify on Monday on Sunday night and if Trump talks about that person, that’s the last time they will do that.

Trump kicks off his weekend with tradition all-caps rants on Truth Social

Saturday 20 April 2024 15:36 , Oliver O'Connell

After a long week in court, what better way to blow off steam than pushing that caps lock key and letting rip on your very own social media platform?

Here’s what is on Donald Trump’s mind this morning:

IF IMMUNITY IS NOT GRANTED TO A PRESIDENT, EVERY PRESIDENT THAT LEAVES OFFICE WILL BE IMMEDIATELY INDICTED BY THE OPPOSING PARTY. WITHOUT COMPLETE IMMUNITY, A PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO PROPERLY FUNCTION!

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on presidential immunity on 25 April (more on that here).

Mr Trump followed that with:

THIS SCAM “RUSHED” TRIAL TAKING PLACE IN A 95% DEMOCRAT AREA IS A PLANNED AND COORDINATED WITCH HUNT THAT COULD HAVE BEEN BROUGHT 8 YEARS AGO, BUT EVERYBODY PASSED. INSTEAD THEY WAITED AND BROUGHT IT RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF MY PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE WORST AND MOST INCOMPETENT PRESIDENT EVER, CROOKED JOE BIDEN. IT IS BEING PRESIDED OVER BY POSSIBLY THE MOST CONFLICTED JUDGE IN JUDICIAL HISTORY, WHO MUST BE REMOVED FROM THIS HOAX IMMEDIATELY. I DID NOTHING WRONG!

Charges were brought against the former president after a thorough investigation that was presented to a grand jury of citizens of New York who voted to indict Mr Trump. President Joe Biden has no influence or jurisdiction over local or state criminal courts.

He wasn’t done yet:

TRUTH SOCIAL IS THE REAL VOICE OF AMERICA!!!

Mr Trump has just under seven million followers on Truth Social and the site recorded 1.5 million unique visitors in March.

While it is streets ahead of other rightwing platforms (such as Gettr, Gab, and Parler), its number pales in comparison to X, formerly Twitter, which has approximately 500 million monthly active users and on which the former president still has 87 million followers (though doesn’t use the account).

Trump did not storm out of court as campaign claims

Saturday 20 April 2024 15:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Donald Trump’s campaign appears to once again be falsely characterising the former president’s exit from his New York criminal trial, claiming that he “stormed” out of the courtroom on Friday.

But a reporter from The Independent, present throughout proceedings this week, says that such details – contained in a message sent out by the campaign after court was adjourned – were not entirely accurate.

Continue reading...

Trump campaign falsely claimed twice this week that he’s ‘stormed’ out of court

Reminder: Court will end early for Passover next week

Saturday 20 April 2024 15:05 , Oliver O'Connell

Trial proceedings will wrap up early on Monday and Tuesday for the Passover holiday.

Court will run from 9.30am until 2pm with no break for lunch on both days. The defence has requested both days off.

Ken Paxton can be disciplined for suit to overturn 2020 election, court says

Saturday 20 April 2024 15:00 , AP

A Texas appeals court has ruled that Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton can face discipline from the state bar association over his failed effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

A disciplinary committee of the State Bar of Texas accused Paxton in 2022 of making false claims of fraud in a lawsuit that questioned President Joe Biden‘s victory. On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeals said Paxton can be sanctioned by the committee because the lawsuit seeks to punish him in his personal capacity as an attorney and not as a public official.

“The focus of the Commission’s allegations is squarely on Paxton’s alleged misconduct — not that of the State,” Judge Erin Nowell, an elected Democrat, wrote in the 2-1 opinion.

The lone Republican on the panel, Judge Emily Miskel, was in dissent.

Continue reading the full article...

Trump fraud trial: NY AG says $175m bond should be voided

Saturday 20 April 2024 14:47 , Oliver O'Connell

New York Attorney General Letitia James has asked the judge in Donald Trump’s civil fraud case to void the $175m bond posted previously by the former president, after questioning whether the insurance company has sufficient funds to back it up.

Mr Trump’s bond was posted by California-based Knight Specialty Insurance Company (KSIC), and Ms James raised concerns that the insurer was “not authorised” to write business in New York.

Mike Bedigan reports:

Trump’s $175m bond in fraud case should be voided, says New York attorney general

In pictures: The first week of Donald Trump’s criminal trial

Saturday 20 April 2024 14:30 , Oliver O'Connell

In a historic week for America, Donald Trump appeared in a Manhattan courtroom as a criminal defendant for the very first time.

Jury selection began in the so-called hush money trial on 15 April, lasting around four days before the panel of 12 jurors and six alternates were sworn in to hear the first ever criminal trial of a sitting or former president.

The former president has been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to payments given to cover up alleged affairs ahead of the 2016 election. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

Donald Trump’s first week of criminal trial in pictures

Key players in Trump’s hush money trial

Saturday 20 April 2024 14:00 , Ariana Baio

From a porn star and a Playboy model to a supermarket tabloid publisher – by way of a lawyer-turned-felon – the cast of characters in the first-ever criminal trial of a former president could hardly be more colourful.

Ahead of Monday’s opening arguments in Donald Trump’s hush money case, here are all the people to know.

Ariana Baio reports:

Key players in Trump’s hush money trial

George Santos shows up outside Trump trial court

Saturday 20 April 2024 13:00 , Katie Hawkinson

Disgraced former congressman George Santos surprised reporters and bystanders on Thursday when he showed up outside the court where Donald Trump is on criminal trial.

Mr Santos was passing by on his way to a different event: a hearing in his own court case – a lawsuit against late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.

“Today’s a big day,” Mr Santos said in a selfie video posted to X on Thursday. “I’m actually in federal court against Jimmy Kimmel for my fraud case against him.”

The hearing was in Manhattan federal court, just blocks away from Mr Trump’s courtroom.

The former congressman alleges Mr Kimmel deceived him into making more than a dozen videos on Cameo — a mobile app that allows users to pay for personalised videos from celebrities — that Mr Kimmel then played on his show “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

Mr Santos sued him in February for copyright infringement, fraudulent inducement, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

Who are the jurors seated for Trump’s criminal trial?

Saturday 20 April 2024 12:00 , Ariana Baio

A teacher, two lawyers and people working in finance are among the 12 jurors tasked with hearing the first-ever criminal trial against a US president.

Alex Woodward reports:

Who are the jurors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial?

Watch: Trump complains to press about how cold it is in courtroom

Saturday 20 April 2024 11:00 , Ariana Baio

Trump campaign announces 100,000 poll watchers and attorneys poised for election day

Saturday 20 April 2024 10:00 , Gustaf Kilander

The Trump campaign has announced that they will have 100,000 poll watchers and attorneys ready to take action on election day as former president Donald Trump’s obsession with election security continues.

Mr Trump tried to overturn the 2020 election citing baseless allegations of fraud by Democrats, and he has made similarly evidence-free claims regarding what Democrats may do this November. Even in 2016, Mr Trump asserted that he only lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because of fraud.

The Trump Campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) said in a Friday statement that they would launch “the most extensive and monumental election integrity program in the nation’s history”.

Gustaf Kilander reports:

Trump campaign announces 100,000 poll watchers and attorneys poised for election day

Max Azzarello posted anti-establishment conspiracies online. He set himself on fire

Saturday 20 April 2024 09:00 , Shweta Sharma

Max Azzarello, 37, who died after setting himself on fire outside the Manhattan courthouse, had recently started posting anti-establishment “conspiracy theories” online, including a lengthy article on Substack which blasted corrupt politicians, and billionaires and even made reference to The Simpsons.

The manifesto-style document warned of an impending “apocalyptic fascist world coup.”

At 1.30pm ET on Friday 19 April, he entered a park outside the New York courthouse, where Donald Trump’s historic criminal trial is taking place, and set himself on fire. The horrific incident lasted several minutes before the flames were extinguished by police officers and court staff.

Max Azzarello: What we know about man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial

Trump complains about gag order

Saturday 20 April 2024 08:00 , Ariana Baio

On Truth Social, Donald Trump complained about the gag order on him in the New York criminal trial, claiming it was a violation of his First Amendment.

The former president said the gag order prevents him from talking about “the most important of topics” including Judge Juan Merchan’s “totally disqualifying conflict of interest” – which an ethics board has already determined is not disqualifying.

After a long day in court, Mr Trump called the case against him a “witch hunt” and falsely stated that “almost every legal scholar and expert has stated there is ‘no case’”.

Mr Trump’s baseless attacks on the case, judge and more are likely to continue throughout the trial which is expected to last up to two months.

Man who set himself on fire outside courthouse dies, police say

Saturday 20 April 2024 06:54 , Shweta Sharma

The man who set himself on fire outside the Manhattan courthouse where Donald Trump’s trial is underway has died, police said.

Maxwell Azzarello, a 37-year-old man from Florida, was “declared deceased by hospital staff”, police told NBC News.

Azzarello was a self-described “investigative researcher” who posted a conspiracy-laden manifesto online moments before the incident.

He threw pamphlets in the air, including a newsletter that a link to Substack, before he poured fuel on his body and set himself on fire in shocking scenes.

“This extreme act of protest is to draw attention to an urgent and important discovery: We are victims of a totalitarian con, and our own government (along with many of their allies) is about to hit us with an apocalyptic fascist world coup,” he wrote in part of a manifesto on the Substack page.

Maxwell Azzarello pictured protesting outside Donald Trump’s trial at Manhattan Criminal Court one day before self-immolating near the same location (Getty Images)
Maxwell Azzarello pictured protesting outside Donald Trump’s trial at Manhattan Criminal Court one day before self-immolating near the same location (Getty Images)

Watch: Police give update on man who set himself on fire in front of Trump trial courthouse

Saturday 20 April 2024 06:00 , Ariana Baio

Man who set himself on fire posted conspiracy-laden manifesto

Saturday 20 April 2024 04:00 , Katie Hawkinson

The man who set himself on fire outside the Manhattan courthouse where Donald Trump’s trial is under way has now been identified as a self-described “investigative researcher” who posted a conspiracy-laden manifesto online moments before the incident.

Maxwell Azzarello, a 37-year-old man from Florida, shared a string of conspiracy theories on his social media accounts in recent months, in which he railed against the rich and powerful and claimed “our only goal is to abolish our criminal government”.

On Friday afternoon, mere minutes after the final jurors were selected in the former president’s criminal case, Mr Azzarello self-immolated outside the court at Collect Pond Park.

He is now at Manhattan’s Weill Cornell Medicine Burn Center in critical condition, police said.

Less than an hour before he set himself on fire he railed against corruption in the US government in a manifesto-type document posted on Substack, seen by The Independent.

In it, Mr Azzarello describes himself as an “investigative researcher” and said that the act of self-immolation was “an extreme act of protest” over a “totalitarian con” and warned of an impending “apocalyptic fascist world coup.”

“To my friends and family, witnesses and first responders, I deeply apologize for inflicting this pain upon you. But I assure you it is a drop in the bucket compared to what our government intends to inflict,” he wrote.

Trump lawyers claim prosecutors want to ‘distract’ from hush money trial

Saturday 20 April 2024 02:00 , Ariana Baio

Attorneys for Donald Trump told a judge overseeing the former president’s hush money trial on Friday that Manhattan prosecutors are merely trying to “distract” jurors and “pile things on” by introducing evidence from the former president’s string of other criminal and civil cases.

New York Justice Juan Merchan presided over a hearing to outline what prosecutors intend to ask Mr Trump if he chooses to testify at his criminal trial, including a defamation case and allegations of sexual abuse, a massive civil fraud judgment finding him liable for tens of millions of dollars, felony convictions targeting his business, and the dissolution of a namesake foundation used to boost his presidential campaign.

Alex Woodward reports:

Trump lawyers say prosecutors want to ’pile things on’ from other cases during trial

Trump denied last-minute request to halt hush money trial by appeals court

Saturday 20 April 2024 01:00 , Graeme Massie

Donald Trump’s request to halt his New York hush money trial was rejected by an appeals court judge on Friday.

The ruling came just hours after the jury of 12 people and six alternates was seated in the case.

Justice Marsha Michael took just minutes to issue the ruling after a short hearing.

The former president’s legal team had asked the judge to pause the case brought by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg as they attempted to have it moved out of the borough.

Melania Trump gives rare interview stressing ‘unity’

Saturday 20 April 2024 00:00 , Gustaf Kilander

Melania Trump has given a rare interview to Fox News urging the country to “unite” as the 2024 campaign heats up and her husband, former President Donald Trump, faces a hush money trial in New York.

The former first lady has so far shied away from the trail during the 2024 campaign but on Saturday will attend a Mar-a-Lago event hosted by the LGBT+ group the Log Cabin Republicans, focused on its get-out-the-vote programme aimed at gay voters in battleground states.

“We must unite in our effort to establish a society where equality is the everyday experience of every American,” Ms Trump told Fox News Digital ahead of the event. “Individual freedom provides a unifying set of principles, and ultimately establishes our American way.”

She added that when America succeeds, it “blossoms into a magnificent place where everyone can practice their beliefs, share new ideas, and express individualism — this is when we are our best”.

Trump lawyers say prosecutors want to ‘distract’ from hush money trial by ‘piling things on’ from other cases

Friday 19 April 2024 23:00 , Alex Woodward

Attorneys for Donald Trump told a judge overseeing the former president’s hush money trial on Friday that Manhattan prosecutors are merely trying to “distract” jurors and “pile things on” by introducing evidence from the former president’s string of other criminal and civil cases.

New York Justice Juan Merchan presided over a hearing to outline what prosecutors intend to ask Mr Trump if he chooses to testify at his criminal trial, including a defamation case and allegations of sexual abuse, a massive civil fraud judgment finding him liable for tens of millions of dollars, felony convictions targeting his business, and the dissolution of a namesake foundation used to boost his presidential campaign.

But the judge said that prosecutors’ request falls within the grounds of the so-called Sandoval hearing, during which a defendant with a history of misconduct or criminal acts who also plans to testify in his defence knows what they could be walking into.

Across his civil and criminal cases, Mr Trump’s legal team has tried to distance the former president from any allegations of wrongdoing.

Mr Trump has insisted he has done nothing wrong, and that the cases against him are a Democratic-led “election interference” conspiracy.

Judge Merchan will decide by Monday – when opening arguments in the hush money trial are expected to begin – on what materials prosecutors can use, if any, in an effort to undermine Mr Trump’s credibility on the stand.

The Jinx director compares killer Robert Durst to Donald Trump

Friday 19 April 2024 22:20 , Tom Murray

Convicted killer Robert Durst reminded The Jinx director Andrew Jarecki of someone else prone to lying: former US president Donald Trump.

Jarecki spoke to The Independent ahead of the release of The Jinx – Part Two, the sequel to his 2015 hit series about the multiple murder allegations against realty heir Durst, which is set to air on Max this Sunday.

Tom Murray reports:

The Jinx director compares convicted killer Robert Durst to Donald Trump

Defence warned abut Trump attacking witness on social media

Friday 19 April 2024 21:32 , Alex Woodward, Ariana Baio

Susan Necheles, Mr Trump’s attorney, asked for the name of at least one witness that prosecutors want to introduce.

“Whether you get the name or not, you’re not going to delay the trial. You won’t,” Judge Juan Merchan said.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass argues that giving Trump those names will make them targets on social media. Instead, prosecutors will introduce the name of a witness who could testify on Monday on Sunday night and if Trump talks about that person, that’s the last time they will do that.

Proceedings for the day are about to end.

Friday 19 April 2024 21:30 , Alex Woodward, Ariana Baio

The defence teams tried to bring up the Access Hollywood tape motion, Joshua Steinglass, an attorney with the prosecution, claims Todd Blanche, “sounds suspiciously like what we argued for half an hour on Monday.”

“There is absolutely nothing new about their argument now,” Mr Stienglass says.

Trump has not moved at all for the last hour. He is hunched forward, glaring, and only turning his head slightly to watch someone else speak.

Judge asks Trump defence team to stop trying to delay or dismiss trial

Friday 19 April 2024 21:22 , Alex Woodward

Judge Juan Merchan’s final point today digs into Trump’s only legal strategy: “Defence cannot continue to submit promotion letters, or motions, or requests to reargue, or for the court to reconsider, every single decision,” he said.

“Defence is literally targeting individual decisions one by one by one by one,” Judge Merchan continued. “That has to end ... There comes to a point where you accept my rulings ... I’ve entertained your motions. I’ve entertained your arguments in good faith.”

He notes that the trial starts on Monday.

Decision on prior cases in cross-examination will come Monday

Friday 19 April 2024 21:10 , Alex Woodward

Judge Juan Merchan said he will make a decision on the Sandoval material by Monday morning.

Trump attorneys argue against Trump Foundation settlement

Friday 19 April 2024 21:09 , Alex Woodward, Ariana Baio

Donald Trump’s lawyers said that the Trump Foundation settlement has a stipulation that states the agreement “should not be construed as an admission of liability.”

“It doesn’t speak to Trump’s credibility, and this one should stay out,” Mr Bove adds.

Matthew Colangelo, a prosecutor, argues that the decision and order determined that Trump breached his fiduciary duties, including using his campaign to orchestrate fundraisers, the campaign directing the distribution of funds, and using the foundation to boost his campaign.

New York AG asks Trump to reject Knight surety in civil fraud case

Friday 19 April 2024 21:08 , Ariana Baio

Pivoting to the New York civil fraud case: New York Attorney General Letitia James has asked Justice Arthur Engoron to reject the Knight Specialty Insurance Company surety, claiming the movants “cannot demonstrate that KSIC’s management meets the requirements of trustworthiness and competence under regulations.”

Justice Engoron is holding a hearing on Monday to determine the bond’s effectiveness

Catch up with that case here:

Prosecutors ask about including Trump Organization criminal tax case

Friday 19 April 2024 21:01 , Alex Woodward, Ariana Baio

The Sandoval hearing is moving swiftly, they’re now bringing up the Trump Organization criminal tax case – which Judge Juan Merchan presided over.

This case, the first criminal convictions against a Trump-connected entity, is from a few years ago. Two subsidiaries of his company were convicted on 17 counts, including criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. Mr Trump was not directly included in this case.

Given Mr Trump was not directly included, Mr Bove argues that it is unrelated to the current case. Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo says that some of the testimony suggested that Mr Trump, with his name on the company and at the top of the payroll, would’ve known about the central scheme in that case.

Friday 19 April 2024 20:57 , Alex Woodward

Mr Trump’s lawyer, Emil Bove claims prosecutors are merely trying to “pile things on” and “distract” and inject “confusion” into the trial and to the jury. Judge Juan Merchan argues that the evidence so far from prosecutors appears to fall within grounds for Sandoval, in which a defendant with a history of misconduct or criminal acts and plans to testify knows what they could be walking into

Donald Trump’s attorneys are essentially trying to insulate him against any allegations of wrongdoing. In all cases, he has claimed to have done nothing wrong.

Trump’s lawyers push back on inclusion of Trump v Clinton

Friday 19 April 2024 20:56 , Alex Woodward, Ariana Baio

Moving onto the bad-faith findings of a lawsuit between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, a lawyer for Mr Trump said to include it would be “so far afield from what this case is about”

“We’re taking a case about document entries in 2017 and bringing up civil claims … in a totally different set of facts,” Mr Bove said.

Trump is attentive during Sandoval hearing

Friday 19 April 2024 20:53 , Alex Woodward

Donald Trump has been hunched forward with his elbows on the table, his eyes tilted slightly to the right as he listens to Emil Bove, his lawyer, and Matthew Colangelo, an attorney with the prosecution.

Defence challenges use of E Jean Carroll findings in criminal trial

Friday 19 April 2024 20:52 , Alex Woodward, Ariana Baio

Prosecutors said they would like to bring up the facts of the case in the defamation case between E Jean Carroll and Donald Trump.

In that, Mr Trump was found liable of sexual abuse and ordered to pay Ms Carroll millions of dollars after defaming her multiple times.

Mr Trump’s lawyer, Emil Bove, tells Judge Juan Merchan, “to bring up Ms Carroll’s allegations … pushes the salaciousness to another level.”

Matthew Colangelo, an attorney with the prosecution, disputes this saying they wouldn’t need to do anything more than assert what the findings were in the determination.

Prosecutors ask to use civil fraud case in cross-examination

Friday 19 April 2024 20:49 , Alex Woodward, Ariana Baio

Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office are asking Judge Juan Merchan if they can use findings from the Trump civil fraud case.

The civil fraud trial, which was overseen by Justice Arthur Engoron, took place in New York last year. Justice Engoron fund Mr Trump liable for inflating his net worth.

Mr Trump’s lawyer, Emil Bove, challenges the introduction of Justice Engoron’s judgement as well as gag orders that the former president violated.

Prosecutions asks judge to seal Michael Cohen’s cell phone records

Friday 19 April 2024 20:30 , Alex Woodward, Ariana Baio

At the top of afternoon court proceedings, Susan Hoffinger, an assistant district attorney for the Manhattan DA’s office, has asked Judge Juan Merchan to seal Michael Cohen’s cell phone records because they contain a lot of personal information.

She says, “many, many thousands of pages” contain “extensive” identifying information, including Social Security numbers, addresses, and personal information relating to people who don’t have anything to do with the case.

Emil Bove, an attorney for Mr Trump, says due to the public trial they should not seal the documents and instead redact information.

Ms Hoffinger told Judge Merchan that it would be “extremely burdensome,” to go line-by-line.

Despite Mr Bove’s challenge, Judge Merchan said he would grant the application to do so and asked that anything needed for the trial be brought to his attention.

Sandoval hearing set to begin

Friday 19 April 2024 20:20 , Ariana Baio

Trial has returned from its lunch break.

Donald Trump is seated in the courtroom where The Independent’s Alex Woodward is reporting from and Judge Juan Merchan is present.

Click here to read the full blog on The Independent's website