NEW YORK: Donald Trump eng­aged in a multi-layered conspiracy of fraud, lies and cover-ups, prosecutors said on Monday during opening arguments in the first ever criminal trial of a former US president.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo said Trump falsified business records to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels over a 2006 sexual encounter that could have impacted his 2016 presidential bid.

“This case is about a criminal conspiracy and a cover-up,” Cola­ngelo told the jury of New Yorkers in a Manhattan courtroom. “It was election fraud, pure and simple.”

Trump, 77, dressed in a dark blue suit and blue tie with an American flag pin on his lapel, sat at the defence table flanked by his lawyers, staring straight ahead as the prosecutor delivered his opening remarks.

Ex-president accused of multi-layered plot of fraud, lies, cover-ups

The case poses substantial risks to the Republican presidential candidate coming less than seven months before his November election rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

Prosecution witnesses are expected to include Daniels and Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen, who arranged the alleged “hush money” payment to the adult film actress. “President Trump did not commit any crimes,” Todd Blanche, one of his attorneys, said in his opening statement.

“The Manhattan DA should never have brought this case. I have a spoiler alert: there’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election,” Blanche said. “It’s called democracy.”

David Pecker, former publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid, was the first witness called by prosecutors, who allege he was used to ward off negative stories about Trump, a policy known as “catch and kill”.

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2024

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