Opening statements in New York Trump trial set to begin

After opening statements the prosecution is set to call their first witness, tabloid publisher David Pecker. Other witnesses expected to be called are Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

Opening statements in Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s falsified business records case against Donald Trump is set to begin on Monday morning.  

Jury selection wrapped up on Friday, with 12 jurors and six alternates being selected from a pool of dozens of New Yorkers. The trial is set to go until 2 pm on Monday due to Passover, according to Reuters

Speaking outside the courtroom before the hearing began, Trump said, "It's a very, very sad day in America," adding that the case was "election interference" and he could be on the campaign trail instead of being stuck in the Manhattan court room. 

Bragg has charged Trump with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Bragg has elevated what are usually misdemeanor charges to the level of a felony, claiming that the misdemeanors were committed in service to a greater crime. Bragg has not said what the felony crime is. 

The 34 counts hold a maximum prison sentence of 4 years each, with Trump facing a combined 136 years in prison. 

Bragg has alleged that payments Trump marked as legal fees for attorney Michael Cohen were to conceal an alleged payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. 

After opening statements, the prosecution is set to call their first witness, tabloid publisher David Pecker. Other witnesses expected to be called are Cohen and Daniels. Pecker, who ran the company that owned The National Enquirer, allegedly had multiple conversations with Trump about payments, as well as "catch and kill" stories about the former president. 

Trump has been told he has to attend every day of the trial. He criticized the decision, saying this would prevent him from attending both his youngest son's graduation as well as Supreme Court arguments on April 25 regarding his presidential immunity claim in a separate case. 

Friday's hearing in the case was marked by a man, Max Azzarello, setting himself on fire outside the courthouse. The antifascist man left behind a manifesto claiming that his intent was "to draw attention to an urgent and important discovery," namely that "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 died on Friday night from his injuries.

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