Donald Trump accused of orchestrating 'criminal scheme to corrupt 2016 election' on first day of hush money trial

22 April 2024, 21:09 | Updated: 22 April 2024, 21:10

Donald Trump accused of orchestrating 'criminal scheme to corrupt 2016 election' on first day of hush money trial
Donald Trump accused of orchestrating 'criminal scheme to corrupt 2016 election' on first day of hush money trial. Picture: Ala

By Christian Oliver and Emma Soteriou

Donald Trump orchestrated a 'criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 election', a New York court has heard at the start of the president's hush money trial.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Trump - whose lawyers maintain he has done "nothing illegal" - said it was a "sad day for America" as he addressed reporters outside the courthouse after calling for "America-loving" protesters to gather outside the building.

The former president and presumptive Republican nominee for the presidency is accused of falsifying business records to pay porn star Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged affair.

New York prosecutors claimed Trump, his then lawyer Michael Cohen, and gossip magazine publisher David Pecker worked together to bury stories that they feared would detail his 2016 presidency race against Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump awaiting the start of proceedings at Manhattan criminal court
Donald Trump awaiting the start of proceedings at Manhattan criminal court. Picture: Alamy

Read More: 'Conspiracy theorist' who set himself on fire outside Donald Trump's hush money trial has died, police confirm

Read More: From a man who meditates every morning to a corporate lawyer: The 12 jurors who will decide Donald Trump's fate

At the heart of the allegations against Trump is a $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels by Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and personal fixer, to prevent her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump from surfacing in the final days of the race.

Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of such payments in internal business documents.

Trump has denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels, and his lawyers argue that the payments to Mr Cohen were legitimate legal expenses.

He has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Matthew Colangelo, for the prosecution for the government said in his opening statement said the money was paid “at the defendant’s direction and he did it to influence the presidential election”.

“Donald Trump orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election. Then he covered up that criminal conspiracy by lying in his New York business records over and over and over again,” Colangelo told the jury.

“You’ll see in his own words about how he feared all this could hurt him among female voters. It was election fraud, pure and simple.”

It comes as Trump said outside the court that his supporters had been "rudely and systematically shut down" while pro-Palestinian activists "basically do whatever they want".

Writing on his Truth Social platform, Trump said: “America Loving Protesters should be allowed to protest at the front steps of Courthouses, all over the Country, just like it is allowed for those who are destroying our Country on the Radical Left.

"Free Speech and Assembly has been ‘CHILLED’ for USA SUPPORTERS. GO OUT AND PEACEFULLY PROTEST.

"RALLY BEHIND MAGA [MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN] . SAVE OUR COUNTRY! 'THE ONLY THING YOU HAVE TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF'."

Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say

It comes after a man set himself on fire outside the courthouse in protest last week.

Maxwell Azzarello, from St Augustine in Florida, could be seen kneeling with his hands behind his head as horrified onlookers screamed out on Friday.

He was standing in the designated protest area for Mr Trump's supporters when the incident occurred, the NYPD said.

He doused himself with a liquid at around 1.30pm local time before setting himself alight.

Azzarello was believed to have been burning for around three minutes as people rushed over to douse him with a fire extinguisher and bat away the flames.

Emergency responders took him away on a stretcher and he later died from his injuries.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Villagers search through a landslide in Yambali village in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea’s government says landslide buried 2,000 people

Nicki Minaj has released a new date to perform at the Co-op Live arena in Manchester after the rapper had to cancel her initial gig following her arrest in the Netherlands on Saturday.

Nicki Minaj announces new Co-op Live Manchester show after cancelling first gig following arrest on suspicion of carrying drugs

King Charles to plant first seedling from Sycamore Gap tree months after historic tree was felled in act of vandalism

King Charles to plant first seedling from Sycamore Gap tree months after historic tree was felled in act of vandalism

More than 120 business leaders throw support behind Labour to help UK 'break free' from 'decade of economic stagnation'

More than 120 business leaders throw support behind Labour to help UK 'break free' from 'decade of economic stagnation'

Rafah airstrike that killed dozens of Palestinians was 'tragic mistake', says Israel's Netanyahu

Rafah airstrike that killed dozens of displaced Palestinians was 'tragic mistake', says Israel's Netanyahu

The RAF pilot who died after a Spitfire at a Battle of Britain airshow in Lincolnshire on Saturday has been named as Squadron Leader Mark Strong.

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight 'temporarily paused' after Mark Long named as RAF pilot killed in Spitfire crash

Teen

Teenager, 17, 'eliminated from inquiries' as police continue manhunt after deadly double stabbing on Bournemouth beach

Sunak accuses Starmer of not offering 'one single new idea' as Labour leader brands Tory National Service plan a 'teenage Dad's Army'

Sunak accuses Labour of not offering 'single new idea' as Starmer brands National Service plan a 'teenage Dad's Army'

Biden

Biden says each generation has to ‘earn’ freedom in Memorial Day remarks

Telford MP Lucy Allan said she had quit the Conservatives

Outgoing Tory MP suspended after publicly backing Reform UK candidate as successor

Exclusive
The veterans minister said the plans would be "an extremely good thing"

Tory minister defends Sunak's 'brave' National Service plans despite last week criticising idea

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians

Netanyahu acknowledges ‘tragic mistake’ after Rafah strike kills dozens

North Korea fails to launch 'spy satellite' into orbit again - but forces Japanese island to 'take cover'

North Korea fails to launch 'spy satellite' into orbit again - but forces Japanese island to 'take cover'

Kim Jong-un and North Korean flag (Alamy/PA)

North Korea says its attempt to put another spy satellite into orbit has failed

Austria IAEA

Iran further increases stockpile of uranium enriched to near weapons-grade level

Elon Musk in 2024

Elon Musk’s xAI raises six billion dollars to develop artificial intelligence