Will Trump’s hush money trial be televised?

Republican presidential contender is making history (again) in Manhattan as the first former US president to face criminal proceedings thanks to the Stormy Daniels scandal

Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 23 April 2024 15:13 BST
Trump falsely accuses Biden of ‘lawfare’ against him as hush money trial looms

Donald Trump is making history as the first American president to face a criminal trial now that his so-called “hush money case” has come to trial.

The Republican, who is running for the White House once more this year, has been accused by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg of falsifying his business records, a felony in New York state, to conceal a “hush money” payment made to the porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential election to ensure her silence over an extramarital affair she alleges she had with the businessman a decade earlier.

Mr Trump denies the affair and any wrongdoing in the case after being hit with 34 felony charges by Mr Bragg.

Ms Daniels, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, Mr Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, ex-campaign aide Hope Hicks and perhaps even Mr Trump himself could all be compelled to appear as witnesses in what promises to be a sensational multi-week trial.

In addition to trying to win a belated second term in the Oval Office, the former president is also battling three other criminal indictments in Florida, Washington DC and Georgia and is appealing two further judgements against him in New York that required him to post multi-million dollar bonds.

His legal team has enjoyed some success in recent weeks in delaying many of the proceedings against him by subjecting the judges overseeing them to blizzards of motions seeking to have the cases dismissed or postponed.

But, in the hush money affair, Judge Juan Merchan has refused to budge, having already granted one delay from its original opening date of 25 March and despite suffering frequent attacks on his integrity from Mr Trump, who has also accused the justice’s daughter of political bias, which resulted in a strict gag order being imposed.

The defendant has nevertheless been relentless, taking to Truth Social even the night before jury selection began to complain: “Tomorrow morning I’ll be in Criminal Court, before a totally conflicted Judge, a Corrupt Prosecutor, a Legal System in CHAOS, a State being overrun by violent crime and corruption, and Crooked Joe Biden’s henchmen ’Rigging the System’ against his Political Opponent, ME!

“I will be fighting for myself but, much more importantly, I will be fighting for our Country. Election Interference like this has never happened in the USA before and, hopefully, will never happen again.

“We are now a Nation in serious Decline, a Failing Nation, but we will soon be a Great Nation Again. November 5th will be the most important day in the History of the United States. MAGA2024! SEE YOU TOMORROW.”

There were similar posts throughout the first week as the jury was selected, as well as impromptu remarks as he entered and exited the courtroom before the assembled TV cameras. There was even a field trip to a bodega in Harlem to make a point about crime.

Despite all this frantic media action, unfortunately, proceedings in the courtroom will not be televised as New York state civil rights laws prohibit that from happening.

That limits us to daily photographs and court sketches, supplemented by more video of the former president outside the courtroom before matters get underway or at the end of the day.

This also happened in the recent New York case against the Trump Organization, in which the former president’s business was ultimately found liable for routinely inflating the value of its assets to secure favourable terms from lenders.

In theory, Judge Merchan could have made an exception to allow television cameras inside his courtroom but this was never likely, given that he declined to do so during Mr Trump’s arraignment a year ago.

Should the presidential candidate’s Florida or DC cases ultimately result in federal trials, they too are unlikely to be filmed, although any trial on the racketeering indictment against Mr Trump and his co-defendants in Georgia could potentially be shown live.

It will doubtless be a cable news ratings bonanza.

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