Apr 22, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump’s hush money payoffs constitute “election fraud,” prosecutor says

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media, flanked by lawyer Todd Blanche (R), after arriving for his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 22, 2024 in New York City.

Former President Trump speaks to the media after arriving for his trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 22 in New York City. Photo: Victor J. Blue - Pool/Getty Images

A prosecutor in former President Trump's New York criminal trial argued during opening statements on Monday that the 2016 hush money payment "was election fraud, pure and simple."

Why it matters: Prosecutors sought to raise the stakes of their case to jurors, arguing that the $130,000 hush money payment was an intentional effort by the former president to try to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

  • They say that the "catch and kill" scheme was an effort to shield negative information about Trump during his 2016 bid for the White House.

Driving the news: "This case is about a criminal conspiracy," said prosecutor Matthew Colangelo.

  • "The defendant, Donald Trump, orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election then, then he covered up that conspiracy by lying in his New York business records over and over again."

Zoom in: The prosecutors' focus on election interference comes as the New York criminal trial is viewed by some legal experts as the weakest of Trump's four criminal indictments.

  • But prosecutors, in an apparent attempt to refute those characterizations, are casting the case and allegations against Trump in much broader terms.
  • "Together they conspired to influence the 2016 presidential election," Colangelo said of Trump, Michael Cohen and David Pecker, the former National Enquirer publisher.

The other side: Trump has pleaded not guilty to the 34 charges in the case and has denied wrongdoing. His team argued on Monday that he did not commit any of the crimes he is accused of in the case.

  • Todd Blanche, who delivered opening statements for the defense, said Monday: "There's nothing wrong with trying to influence an election."
  • "It's called democracy. They put something sinister on this idea, as if it's a crime," Blanche said.

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