Trump is about to go on trial in New York. Here’s what to expect

By Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is expected to be pulled from the campaign trail for at least two months starting next week as he stands trial in New York, the first criminal prosecution of a former president in American history.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records in an attempt to hide money paid to an adult film actor to prevent her from going public with claims that she and Trump had sex.

It is the only one of the four felony cases Trump currently faces that has a trial date and could be the only one that is completed before election day. Jury selection begins April 15.

What are the charges?

The trial is over whether Trump falsified business records to cover up a $130,000 payment his lawyer Michael Cohen made in the final days of the 2016 campaign to adult film actor Stormy Daniels for her silence about a 2006 sexual encounter she says she had with Trump. He has pleaded not guilty. Trump also denies Daniels’ claim of a sexual encounter.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump sits at the defense table with his defense team in a Manhattan court during his arraignment on April 4, 2023, in New York City. Trump was arraigned during his first court appearance following an indictment by a grand jury that heard evidence about money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election. With the indictment, Trump became the first former U.S. president in history to be charged with a criminal offense. (Photo by Seth Wenig-Pool/Getty Images) 

According to the New York indictment, Trump sent Cohen $420,000 in a dozen installments during his first months as president in 2017 and falsely recorded the payments in Trump Organization internal documents as legal expenses, citing a retainer agreement. That amount includes $130,000 as reimbursement for paying Daniels and additional funds for Cohen.

Prosecutors say there were no legal expenses or retainer agreement at the time.

The key thing Manhattan Dist. Atty. Alvin Bragg must prove to jurors is that Trump instructed Cohen to make the payment to Daniels in an effort to influence the 2016 election by keeping damaging stories about him from being published.

Trump has said he sought to silence Daniels to keep his wife, Melania Trump, from learning about the allegations.

Does Trump have to be at the trial in person?

Yes. Manhattan Judge Juan Manuel Merchan has said he expects Trump in the courtroom every day the court is in session. The trial will take place Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays for about six to eight weeks.

Trump is under a gag order prohibiting him from making or directing others to make public statements regarding counsel and court staff in the case.