Trump trial Day 1 recap: Courtroom turns contentious as ex-president faces hush money charges

Editor's note: This page reflects the news from Donald Trump's trial from Monday, April 15. For the latest news on the Trump trial, follow our live updates for Thursday, April 18. 

NEW YORK — Former President Donald Trump's historic New York criminal trial for allegedly falsifying business records to disguise a hush money payment to a porn star and unlawfully influence the 2016 presidential election started Monday.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee faces 34 felony counts that each carry a maximum sentence of four years, although New York law caps such sentences at 20 years. If he is convicted, many legal experts have said a realistic sentence ranges from probation to four years in prison, although Trump would likely remain free on appeal during the duration of the presidential election.

The trial is the first of its kind. No former American president has ever been criminally indicted, although former President Richard Nixon may have faced that prospect if his former vice president, Gerald Ford, hadn't pardoned him.

Keep up with USA TODAY's live updates from inside and outside the Manhattan courthouse:

Trump trial live updates: Will we get 12 jurors on Day 3? Jury selection continues today.

Day 1 of Trump New York hush money trial ends

Judge Juan Merchan declared the close of proceedings Monday in the first criminal trial against a former U.S. president as a colorful pattern of potential jurors emerged.

Diverse interests in prospective jury pool

Many jurors were excused straight away when they indicated they couldn't be fair or impartial in the case, or couldn't participate for some other reason such as a scheduling conflict. But as individualized jury questioning got underway, remaining potential jurors described varied jobs, hobbies, and family lives.

They described working as a prosecutor, a bookseller, a nurse, a creative director, and getting their news from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and a host of other outlets including USA TODAY and Fox News.

Some liked hiking, others cooking. One, who was later excused, said she likes to "go to the club."

Jury selection didn't begin until the afternoon, after the judge and lawyers handled procedural legal issues.

– Aysha Bagchi

Dismissed juror speaks

A man, who declined to give his name, walked out of criminal court with his jury identification in his pocket. His name was crossed out.He said the judge dismissed him from jury selection because his daughter had a wedding in early June in Seattle.He didn’t have to answer any questions for the selection, but he believed Trump could get a fair trial.“His challenge is that he's a public figure and there's a ton of information already,” he said.

−Eduardo Cuevas

Judge rejects Trump's request to be excused for Supreme Court immunity arguments

After jurors were excused at the end of the day, Judge Juan Merchan rejected a request from Trump lawyer Todd Blanche to excuse the former president from the trial on April 25 so he can attend Supreme Court oral arguments in his criminal federal election interference case. The high court is reviewing whether Trump is immune from prosecution for official acts during his presidency.

"Arguing before the Supreme Court is a big deal," Merchan said, adding that he can very much understand why Trump would want to be there. However, Merchan said he wouldn't alter the plans for the criminal case on that basis.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump Media stock price plummets Monday

While Trump was in court Monday, his Trump Media & Technology Group shares plummeted more than 18% after the company took steps to sell millions of additional shares.

Trump Media, the parent company of social media platform Truth Social, filed to register up to 146.1 million shares for sale, including nearly 115 million owned by Trump personally. The company also listed the potential sale of another 21.5 million shares linked to warrants – contracts that give investors the right to buy or sell a stock at a specific price within a certain time frame.

Trump Media’s market cap and Trump’s net worth – both tied to the company’s stock – have taken a hit as its stock price has dipped. The company’s market value as of Monday was more than $3.5 billion, down from a peak of nearly $8 billion.

−Bailey Schulz

Trump glares at reporter who said he appeared to be sleeping in court

As Trump walked out of the courtroom during a short break in the afternoon's proceedings, he glared at New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman for several seconds. Haberman reported earlier in the day that Trump appeared to be sleeping in the courtroom. She said she saw his head drop down repeatedly and his mouth go slack.

Haberman has reported on Trump for years and wrote a 2022 book about him titled, "Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America."

– Aysha Bagchi

Individual jury questioning begins

Individualized questioning of potential jurors has begun as the New Yorkers orally respond to 42 jury questions Judge Juan Merchan decided on before trial.

A young woman is the first to respond orally to each item from the questionnaire, which she is reading silently. Donald Trump appears to be reading the questions silently at the table as he listens to the responses.

– Aysha Bagchi

More than half of first-round potential Trump jurors say they can't be impartial

Judge Juan Merchan excused at least 50 potential jurors from a group he earlier said included 96 New Yorkers because they indicated they couldn't be fair and impartial in the case. A handful of the potential jurors were wearing masks.

At least nine more potential jurors were excused after they indicated they couldn't serve for other reasons that weren't disclosed, leaving about 34 potential jurors.

It was a speedy whittling-down of the first group of potential jurors to be sworn in as former President Donald Trump goes on trial over whether he falsified business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

– Aysha Bagchi

Former President Donald Trump attends the first day of his hush money trial in New York City on April 15, 2024.
Former President Donald Trump attends the first day of his hush money trial in New York City on April 15, 2024.

Judge instructs potential jurors on being fair

Judge Juan Merchan told prospective jurors that fair jurors will remain impartial and will guard against various stereotypes, asking themselves if their views on the defendant would be different if the defendant had a different political affiliation, among other attributes.

Merchan also explained that the jurors are the judges of the facts in the case, while Merchan's job is to judge and instruct them on the law.

Donald Trump has largely been looking at Merchan while the judge addresses the potential jurors, but he has occasionally looked at the jury box where some prospective jurors are sitting.

– Aysha Bagchi

Jurors are sworn in as judge begins opening remarks

At 2:34 p.m. ET, the first batch of potential jurors was sworn in. Judge Juan Merchan instructed the jury about the case and introduced the lawyers as well as Donald Trump. Both sides, including Trump, stood up after they were introduced and turned to face the potential jurors.

Merchan gave the New Yorkers a brief description of the charges Trump faces. Merchan explained that the jury will have 12 jurors, and there will also be alternate jurors who would be called upon to join the jury if one of the 12 isn't able to complete the full trial.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge moves Trump contempt hearing up one day, to April 23

Judge Juan Merchan moved the date for a hearing over whether Donald Trump violated a gag order and should be held in contempt in the New York hush money case. The hearing will now be held on Tuesday, April 23, one day sooner than originally planned.

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy argued earlier in the day that Trump should be held in contempt and fined $3,000 for three social media posts that Conroy said violated the judge's prohibition on Trump publicly commenting on the participation of potential witnesses.

Merchan didn't announce any change to the deadline for Trump's legal team to respond in writing to the prosecution's allegations in advance of the hearing: it remains April 19.

– Aysha Bagchi

Former President Donald Trump arrives at a criminal court in New York City on April 15, 2024.
Former President Donald Trump arrives at a criminal court in New York City on April 15, 2024.

Potential Trump jurors begin going through security

At 2:05 p.m. ET potential jurors began going through the security that's in place before they can enter the courtroom for Donald Trump's hush money trial.

Judge Juan Merchan has already decided on 42 questions the jury candidates will be asked. Prosecutors and the Trump defense team will also be able to ask follow-up questions.

Merchan isn't allowing questions about whether jurors voted for Trump or intend to vote for him. But he has allowed several questions that could reveal a juror's political preferences. For example, potential jurors will be asked if they've ever attended either a Trump rally or an anti-Trump rally, and whether they have ever followed Trump or an anti-Trump group on social media.

If potential jurors' answers indicate they probably can't be impartial in the case, Merchan has said he will strike them from consideration. For any potential jurors Merchan doesn't excuse from further service, the two sides will have the option of disqualifying them themselves, though that power isn't unlimited.

– Aysha Bagchi

What is a Sandoval hearing?

If you've been following Donald Trump's criminal hush money case so far, you may have heard the term "Sandoval hearing" earlier in the day. But what does the term mean?

It's basically a short hearing that happens before trials. A judge is asked what previous actions or factors can be brought up during a trial, weighing the potential impact on the case at large.

– Marina Pitofsky

As Trump goes on trial, asylum seekers a block away navigate immigration system

A block from Donald Trump’s trial, New York's Federal Plaza had a steady flow of patrons Monday morning for immigration court. The city has faced the arrival of nearly 200,000 migrants, many bused in from the U.S.-Mexico border, in the past two years.

Under a treelined path outside the federal building, Alex Rojas, a 24-year-old Venezuelan man, read his book, “Red White & Royal Blue,” an LGBTQ romance novel by Casey McQuiston. The Manhattan criminal courthouse, where Trump was on trial for hiding hush money payments, loomed behind Rojas.

He's been in the U.S. for six months, without a work permit, and is seeking political asylum due to dangers of violence toward gay people in Venezuela. Rojas, who hopes to work as a physical therapist, admitted he didn’t know much about American politics, but he knew about Trump’s stance on immigration.

“I think he’s going to deport all of us from here,” Rojas said, with nervous laughter. “I don’t think he likes migrants much, even less Venezuelans.”

As court adjourned for lunch, Rojas also left, heading back to his shelter in the Bronx. He’d return to Manhattan in the morning, as would Trump, to appear in court.

– Eduardo Cuevas

96 jurors to be called in for initial questioning

Judge Juan Merchan said 96 jurors will be called in for initial questioning as the jury selection process gets underway in Donald Trump's New York hush money case. In total, Merchan said 500 prospective jurors have been called on for service in the case.

We are waiting for prospective jurors to arrive in the courtroom.

– Aysha Bagchi

Protestors march along Centre Street in New York City before Former President Donald Trump arrived at NY Criminal Court on Monday morning, April 15, 2024.
Protestors march along Centre Street in New York City before Former President Donald Trump arrived at NY Criminal Court on Monday morning, April 15, 2024.

Judge will hold hearing on whether to hold Donald Trump in contempt April 24

Following a lunch break, Judge Juan Merchan declared he will hold a hearing on Wednesday, April 24 about whether Donald Trump violated a gag order through posts on his Truth Social media platform and should be held in contempt.

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy earlier in the day argued Merchan should hold Trump in contempt and fine him $3,000 – or $1,000 for each of three alleged violations.

Merchan told Trump's legal team to file its response on the gag order allegations by April 19.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trial schedule: Holidays, Barron Trump's high school graduation and more

While Donald Trump's hush money trial is expected to extend six to eight weeks, the former president won't be in the courtroom every day. Judge Juan Merchan said Tuesday that the trial will take a break on Wednesdays for its duration, and there will not be any trial on April 29, NBC News reported.

The judge also said there will not be any trial dates that would conflict with religious observances. That could include Passover, though the courtroom hours could simply be cut short on April 22 and 23.

The case will also potentially adjourn for the high school graduation of Barron Trump, Donald Trump's youngest son, next month.

– Marina Pitofsky

Police investigating bomb threat at Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's home

Police say they are investigating a bomb threat targeting the home of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Monday morning, according to the Associated Press. Law enforcement official said a 911 caller reported the threat just before 9 a.m. ET.

It's not the first time Bragg has faced an emergency situation in recent months. A powdery substance was discovered last month in a threatening letter in a mailroom at Bragg's offices, the AP reported.

– Marina Pitofsky

Prosecutor wants Donald Trump held in contempt, $3,000 fine, for alleged gag order violations

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy asked Judge Juan Merchan to hold Donald Trump in contempt and fine him $3,000 for allegedly violating the judge's gag order. The order prohibits Trump from publicly commenting on the participation of potential witnesses in the case.

Conroy pointed to three Trump social media posts that he said each warrant a $1,000 fine.

  • One post featured a statement from Michael Avenatti, who was once a lawyer for Stormy Daniels, that it is "outrageous that Cohen and Daniels can do countless TV interviews" talking badly about Trump, but Trump is gagged if he responds. Trump reposted the comment along with his own thanks to Avenatti "for revealing the truth about two sleaze bags" who have hurt the country with lies.

  • In 2022, Avenatti was convicted of identify theft and wire fraud for stealing from Daniels and sentenced to several years in prison.

Conroy also said Trump violated the gag order by posting a photograph of a publicly available 2018 statement by Daniels denying she had a sexual encounter with Trump. A further violation allegedly occurred when Trump posted about Cohen, asking, "Has disgraced attorney and felon Michael Cohen been prosecuted for LYING?"

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said the defense would like the chance to respond in writing.

The judge didn't make an immediate decision.

– Aysha Bagchi

Was Donald Trump falling asleep at hush money trial?

The former president appeared to nod off before the trial's lunch break, closing his eyes briefly and jerking awake multiple times, according to several reports.

– Marina Pitofsky

Will Trump testify in his hush money case?

Trump said on Friday that he will testify at the trial.

"I’m testifying. I tell the truth. I mean, all I can do is tell the truth. And the truth is that there's no case, they have no case," Trump said at a Palm Beach press conference.

However, the former president has backed out of testifying before.

In his New York civil fraud case, Trump was forced to testify under a state subpoena when the state attorney general's office was putting on its case. At that time, Trump's legal team didn't ask him a single question on cross-examination. Trump later said he would testify when it was the defense's turn to call their own witnesses. But the day before his scheduled testimony, he backed out.

– Aysha Bagchi

Court takes a lunch break

The proceedings in the Manhattan courtroom have paused until 1:30 p.m. ET.

– Marina Pitofsky

E. Jean Carroll deposition will not be allowed in Trump trial

Judge Juan Merchan on Monday also said prosecutors cannot show a deposition from columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s.

A jury last year found Trump liable of sexually abusing Carroll and defaming her. In January, a jury also ruled that Trump must pay the columnist $83.3 million in damages for defamation.

But on Monday, Merchan warned that Carroll's deposition could risk "building in a trial into a trial."

– Marina Pitofsky

Anti-Trump press conference takes place near courtroom

A few blocks from the courtroom at nearby Foley Square, a group of anti-Trump protestors gathered for a press conference. Advocates held up large orange letters reading “No one is above the law” as a series of speakers addressed the election interference charges against the former president.

In a federal case and state-level case in Georgia, Donald Trump is accused of trying to steal the 2020 election from President Joe Biden.

Robert Weisman, president of the non-profit Public Citizen  spoke from a podium emblazoned with “Election interference is a crime."

– Anna Kaufman

What is hush money?

Hush money is a wide-ranging term used to refer to paying someone to not speak publicly about an issue. It's not necessarily illegal, so why is Donald Trump in court over a hush money case?

The former president isn’t actually charged with making a $130,000 payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement. Instead, he's accused of falsifying business records to hide the payment.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg described the payments to Daniels and another woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, as part of a “catch-and-kill” strategy to prevent the women from telling their stories. But the criminal charges are that Trump falsified his company’s business records to conceal the payments.

– Bart Jansen

Donald Trump rails against Michael Cohen, despite gag order

The former president has shown a penchant for launching accusations and insults towards judges, prosecutors and potential witnesses he deems hostile, but he could face fines or even jail time if Judge Juan Merchan determines it runs afoul of a gag order.

Based on what Merchan described as a history of "threatening, inflammatory, denigrating" statements against officials, court staff, and prosecutors, the judge issued an order barring Trump from publicly commenting about the participation of potential witnesses in the case, such as porn star Stormy Daniels and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

Despite the gag order's restriction on comments about witnesses, Trump posted on Saturday "Has disgraced attorney and felon Michael Cohen been prosecuted for LYING?"

Merchan also prohibited public statements about court staff and prosecution lawyers other than Bragg, as well as their family members, if the comments are meant to significantly interfere with their work in the case.

Days after that order was issued, Trump attacked Merchan's daughter in a series of posts on Trump's Truth Social media platform, calling her "a Rabid Trump Hater" and posting a photo of her, leading the judge to expand the gag order to prohibit the former president from publicly commenting on Merchan's or Bragg's family members if the comments are meant to significantly interfere with work in the case.

– Aysha Bagchi

Jury won't watch 'Access Hollywood' tape, judge reiterates

Judge Juan Merchan previously ruled that the jury in Donald Trump's hush money trial can hear testimony about Trump's comments on the infamous 'Access Hollywood' tape, but can't watch the tape.

Merchan reiterated that ruling on Monday, saying he continues to regard the video as too prejudicial against Trump to be permitted in the trial. In the tape, Trump crudely describes grabbing women. The release of the tape in early October of 2016 is important context for Trump's alleged $130,000 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, according to prosecutors. They say he feared another scandal would further endanger his standing with women voters in the fast-approaching election.

For that reason, Trump authorized the payment by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, which constituted a campaign contribution in excess of federal campaign finance limits, prosecutors say.  One reason Trump faces felony charges of falsifying business records, as opposed to misdemeanors, is that the alleged falsification was done to conceal that separate federal crime, prosecutors say.

– Aysha Bagchi

Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends the first day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 15, 2024, in New York City. Former President Donald Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends the first day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 15, 2024, in New York City. Former President Donald Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial.

Why did Michael Cohen go to prison?

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former attorney, pleaded guilty in 2018 to concealing more than $4 million from the IRS and "causing $280,000 in payments to be made to silence two women who otherwise planned to speak publicly about their alleged affairs with a presidential candidate, thereby intending to influence the 2016 presidential election," according to court records.

Prosecutors said Cohen arranged a $150,000 payment to McDougal and a $130,000 payment to Daniels.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison but was released early to home detention because of the spread of COVID-19.

– Bart Jansen

A pickup truck adorned with Trump flags drives down Lafayette Street near the NY Criminal Court where jury selection got underway in Former President Donald Trump's crimiminal trial Monday, April 15, 2024.
A pickup truck adorned with Trump flags drives down Lafayette Street near the NY Criminal Court where jury selection got underway in Former President Donald Trump's crimiminal trial Monday, April 15, 2024.

Donald Trump's supporters gather to demonstrate outside Manhattan courthouse

Among the crowd outside the courtroom was Vish Burra, 33, the executive secretary of the New York Young Republican Club, which helped organize the protest.

Sporting a black “Make America Great Again” hat, Burra, a former aide to embattled former Rep. George Santos, scanned the crowd and captured some videos of anti-Trump protesters on his phone.

He voted for Obama in 2012 but is now an ardent supporter of Trump. Free trade, immigration policy, and anti-war beliefs brought him into the GOP.

“Donald Trump didn’t start any new wars when he was president and not only that but his strong presence kept people at peace, kept people at bay.”

– Anna Kaufman

Judge Juan Merchan says jury won't hear about Melania Trump's pregnancy during alleged affair

Attorneys and Judge Juan Merchan are addressing a series of issues this morning about what testimony and evidence can be introduced in the trial.

Merchan tentatively ruled in the morning that Melania Trump's pregnancy during an alleged affair between Trump and former Playboy model Karen McDougal can't be shared with the jury.

Merchan previously ruled that the prosecution can call McDougal to the witness stand even though Trump isn't charged with falsifying business records to cover up an alleged hush money payment she received. McDougal has said she and the real estate mogul had an affair over many months, which Trump denies. In the earlier ruling, Merchan said McDougal's testimony about steps taken to secure her story "complete the narrative" in the prosecution's case.

However, Merchan said Monday he doesn't believe "at this moment" that testimony or evidence about Melania Trump's pregnancy is necessary.

– Aysha Bagchi

'It's going to backfire'

Bijaya Acharya, 32, slept just a couple hours after finishing driving for Uber so he could take the train from Queens to see Donald Trump leave Trump Tower in the morning ahead of his trial. Then, Acharya, donning the iconic red “Make America Great Again” hat, went to the lower Manhattan courthouse to support the former president.

Acharya, a native of Nepal, lives in Jackson Heights, a diverse, immigrant Queens neighborhood, in one of the world’s most diverse, immigrant cities. Still, he supports Trump because of his push to crack down on crime and illegal immigration, two issues Acharya said he sees in New York City.

Since becoming a citizen in 2021, he plans to vote in his first presidential election. He believes the trial only helps Trump’s chances of winning: “It’s going to backfire,” he said. “It’s not going to hurt him.”

Acharya planned to stay outside the courthouse until the afternoon. He normally worked at night, anyway.

– Eduardo Cuevas

What will potential jurors be asked in Trump's NY case?

Ahead of trial, Merchan decided on a list of 42 questions the potential jurors will be asked, with both sides also having a chance to ask follow-up questions.

Several of the questions could help the trial teams figure out if a potential juror has a bias when it comes to Trump that could undermine the ability to be impartial. For example, potential jurors will be asked if they've ever attended a Trump or anti-Trump rally, and whether they follow Trump or an anti-Trump group on social media.

But jurors will also be asked basic biographical information, like where they live, whether they're married, whether a loved one has ever been a victim of a crime.

– Aysha Bagchi

Looking for an unbiased jury in Donald Trump's hush money case

Starting Monday, Donald Trump's and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's trial teams will each be working to select 12 jurors and several alternates who give them the best odds of winning.

Each side will get a limited number of "peremptory strikes" – essentially vetoes – they can use to exclude potential jurors. Judge Juan Merchan will also be tasked with striking jurors whose responses to questions indicate they probably can't be impartial.

It's a case that turns some of the normal ways of thinking about jury selection on their head, according to Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, a seasoned jury consultant who assisted O.J. Simpson's murder trial defense team.

"In a normal criminal case, it is the prosecution that's looking for the white, older male, and it is the defense that's looking for the minority individual, the anti-police individual − but in this case it's actually reversed," Dimitrius told USA TODAY.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge Juan Merchan denies Trump's recusal push over his daughter

Trial Judge Juan Merchan entered the courtroom and began his remarks in the proceedings by denying a Trump motion for his own recusal.

Trump's legal team argued in the motion that a marketing agency headed by the judge's daughter benefits reputationally and financially by targeting Trump, rendering the judge's role in the case improper. The agency does work for Democratic political candidates.

In rejecting that argument, Merchan noted an opinion from the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics that Merchan's impartiality couldn't be reasonably questioned based on his daughter's work because Trump's case doesn't involve her business.

Merchan already rejected a Trump motion for Merchan's recusal in August. Trump argued in the new motion that his success in the Republican primaries since August has "cemented his status as a political target" of the daughter's agency.

"The court will not address this matter further," Merchan said Monday.

– Aysha Bagchi

More: Donald Trump loses Hail Mary call for judge's recusal ahead of New York hush money trial

Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles: Donald Trump's lawyers

They aren’t household names yet like their universally known client, Donald Trump. But the lawyers trying to keep the former president out of prison in his New York hush money trial − Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles − likely will become minor celebrities once the court battle gets going this week.

A year ago, when a grim-faced Trump made history as the first former president to face criminal charges, Blanche and Necheles sat by his side as he pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records associated with hush money payments to two women.

Blanche, who usually does talking in court on the hush-money case, told reporters that Trump was determined to fight the charges.

"He's frustrated, he's upset," Blanche said. "It's not going to stop him."

– Josh Meyer

'The circus'

Donald Trump's hush money trial in New York marks a historic moment: The first time a former president has even been on trial and facing criminal charges. The unprecedented case is also set against the backdrop of one of the busiest cities in the world.

Before the trial started on Monday, Mike Jamison, 67, of Philadelphia, stood alone against the barricades opposite the courthouse.

While visiting his brother in Brooklyn, he said he stopped by the courthouse “for the circus.” He is a Democrat who planned to vote again for President Joe Biden.“I think he should get convicted,” Jamison said of Trump. “But who knows, you know? It only takes one juror.”

– Eduardo Cuevas

Who is Karen McDougal?

Karen McDougal is a former Playboy model. She indirectly received a hush money payment in 2016 after claiming to have an affair with Donald Trump.

Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney, funneled the money through the publication National Enquirer owned by American Media Inc., under a "catch and kill" approach, paying the tabloid to buy rights to her story and prevent her from telling anyone else about it.

McDougal has since spoken out about her affair with Trump, saying it lasted for about 10 months starting in 2006. He denies the allegation.

– Kinsey Crowley 

Donald Trump begins fundraising off of trial

Minutes after Donald Trump entered the courtroom, his campaign texted out solicitations for donations, saying “I'M IN COURT NOW!” in an all-caps message.

Trump said in the text, “They're trying to DESTROY ME - BUT YOU CAN STOP THEM!” The former president has long claimed that the criminal charges against him are targeting his reelection campaign, though there's no evidence of that. – David Jackson

Who is Alvin Bragg?

Last year, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg became the first prosecutor to secure a criminal indictment against a former president. On Monday the world's attention will turn to Bragg as Trump's trial on 34 counts of falsifying business records begins.

In 2022, Bragg's office won convictions against two parts of the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer. Allen Weisselberg was sentenced to five months in prison after pleading guilty to 15 charges in a scheme to avoid taxes. Two Trump corporations were fined a combined $1.6 million for convictions of 17 felonies.

Bragg said company officials “have to play by the rules” and that Weisselberg used his position to get lavish perks such as a rent-free Manhattan apartment, multiple Mercedes Benz cars and private school tuition for his grandchildren – “all without paying required taxes.”

– Bart Jansen

Who is Stormy Daniels?

Stormy Daniels alleged that Donald Trump had consensual sex with her in 2006 – months after Melania Trump gave birth to Barron Trump.

Trump’s then-attorney and personal fixer, Michael Cohen, paid $130,000 to Daniels just before the 2016 election to silence claims that she had an affair with Trump after she was willing to go public about the scandal.

– Sudiksha Kochi

Protestors march along Centre Street in New York City before Former President Donald Trump arrived at NY Criminal Court Monday morning, April 15, 2024.
Protestors march along Centre Street in New York City before Former President Donald Trump arrived at NY Criminal Court Monday morning, April 15, 2024.

Donald Trump: ‘I’m very honored to be here’

Donald Trump gave a one-minute statement to reporters before entering the courtroom, alleging without evidence that his hush-money trial is “political persecution” and “an assault on America.”

Trump cited unnamed legal scholars calling the case “nonsense.”

“It’s a case that should have never been brought” Trump said, adding “I’m very honored to be here.”

– Bart Jansen

Andrew Giuliani, son of former NYC Mayor and Trump advisor Rudolph Giuliani, speaks with a reporter outside 100 Centre Street in New York Monday, April 15, 2024. Former President Donald Trump was inside NY Criminal Court Monday where a jury was being selected for his trial.
Andrew Giuliani, son of former NYC Mayor and Trump advisor Rudolph Giuliani, speaks with a reporter outside 100 Centre Street in New York Monday, April 15, 2024. Former President Donald Trump was inside NY Criminal Court Monday where a jury was being selected for his trial.

Andrew Giuliani calls for 'unbiased jurors' in Trump hush money case

Andrew Giuliani, son of longtime Trump advisor and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, stood among a mix of reporters and Trump supporters waving flags. He acknowledged the difficulty with jury selection because so many have opinions about the president. But he believed if people looked at the facts of the case, Trump would be acquitted.

“You need two or three in there, even one,” Andrew Giuliani said. “But two or three, that way you don’t have one that gets bullied around by the others. I’m just hopeful that you do have a few unbiased jurors in there.”

– Eduardo Cuevas

Donald Trump arrives in the courtroom

Former President Donald Trump just entered the Manhattan courtroom for the first day of his New York criminal trial. He is wearing a dark suit and red tie.

It's an unprecedented moment. Trump is the first former president ever to face criminal charges. He faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover-up a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in advance of the 2016 presidential election.

The court has estimated the trial will last between six and eight weeks. Jury selection alone could last several days or even multiple weeks.

– Aysha Bagchi

Donald Trump arrives in court for his arraignment proceeding at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 4, 2023, in New York City. His trial begins April 15, 2024.
Donald Trump arrives in court for his arraignment proceeding at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 4, 2023, in New York City. His trial begins April 15, 2024.

How many indictments does Trump have?

Trump has been indicted on 91 charges across four separate criminal cases. However, some of those charges have since been dismissed, bringing the current total to 88.

  • In Trump's New York case accusing him of making hush money payments before the 2016 election, he faces 34 felony counts

  • In the federal case accusing Trump of mishandling classified documents, Trump is charged with 40 felony counts

  • Trump also faces a federal case accusing him of trying to steal the 2020 election from President Joe Biden. He faces 4 felony counts there

  • In the Georgia case accusing him of trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the Peach State, the former president 10 felony counts.

– Kinsey Crowley & Bart Jansen

Why is Donald Trump on trial?

The trial will feature some salacious allegations. Prosecutors claim Trump falsified records to conceal that he was reimbursing his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. Daniels has said she had sex with the real estate mogul shortly after his wife, Melania Trump, gave birth to their son, Barron. Trump denies Daniels' claim, and has pleaded not guilty in the case.

The charges are felonies, as opposed to misdemeanors, because prosecutors claim Trump falsified the records in order to conceal violating federal election laws through a payment that was meant to help his 2016 presidential campaign but exceeded campaign contribution limits.

The payment was made less than two weeks before the 2016 election. Prosecutors also allege the records were falsified in order to violate New York tax and election laws.

– Aysha Bagchi

Small (but passionate) crowd gathers outside Trump trial

Outside the Manhattan courtroom where the former president's criminal hush money trial was set to begin Monday, the press and police presence seemed to outnumber the protestors significantly. A large flag that red “Trump 2024: Save America” waved above a small crowd demonstrators who appeared to support the president.

On the other side of a set of barricades, protestors criticizing the president walked silently behind a banner reading “no one is above the law.” A few nearby Trump supporters shouted at them, one with a bullhorn who repeated “Donald Trump did nothing wrong”

Jamie Bauer, who is part of Rise and Resist  which formed after Trump’s election says the group has come out to protest every case. “They want to provoke us so that it will look like they’re the victims of left-wing aggression” they said of the pro-Trump crowd.– Anna Kaufman

Key players in Trump's hush money trial

Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and porn actress Stormy Daniels, who received $130,000 to keep quiet before the 2016 election are the key witnesses expected at his New York trial.

Cohen arranged the payment to Daniels, in exchange for her signing a non-disclosure agreement about her claim she had sex with Trump in 2006 while he was married to Melania Trump. Cohen pleaded guilty and spent time in prison on charges including a campaign finance violation for influencing the 2016 election.

Trump has blasted Cohen as unreliable because he is a convicted perjurer and disbarred lawyer. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, said she was eager to sign the non-disclosure agreement to get the episode behind her.

Trump has denied having a relationship with her. He has argued he was paying Cohen and that he was unaware of money going to Daniels.

Trump could also potentially testify, as he did at his civil fraud trial.

– Bart Jansen

Donald Trump arrives at NY courthouse

Donald Trump has arrived at the Manhattan courthouse where he's facing sweeping criminal charges in a hush money case.

– Marina Pitofsky

What time does the Trump trial start today?

Proceedings are expected to begin at 9:30 ET on Monday morning in the Manhattan courtroom where Donald Trump is facing sweeping criminal charges.

Remember, jury selection begins in the case on Monday, so lawyers won't be presenting their cases just yet. But that will come soon: The trial is expected to last between six and eight weeks in total.

– Marina Pitofsky

How long will Trump's trial last? Here's a timeline

The trial will last about six-to-eight weeks, according to a court media advisory.

The trial will start with jury selection Monday, which could be an especially lengthy process given many potential jurors will likely have opinions about former President Donald Trump that both sides may want to explore. New York law requires unanimity from a 12-person jury to convict a criminal defendant in a felony case.

Normally, the trial would then proceed into opening arguments, which give both sides the chance to provide an outline to jurors of what they believe the evidence will show, followed by the prosecution calling witnesses to testify and introducing evidence. The defense will try to poke holes in the prosecution's case through cross-examination, and then will have the option of putting calling its own witnesses and introducing its own evidence.

Finally, the parties will give closing arguments, and the jury will be tasked with rendering a verdict.

– Aysha Bagchi

Where can I watch the Trump trial?

The trial won't be televised, as is typical in New York courts. Reporters will be present in the courtroom and an overflow room that will have a live stream of the proceedings.

Trump may hold press conferences outside of court and speak to reporters in the courthouse hallway.

– Aysha Bagchi

Quiet morning waiting for Donald Trump's trial to start

There appear to be more reporters than demonstrators before Donald Trump’s trial started Monday morning in lower Manhattan.Police have barricades down the middle of Collect Pond Park, across the street from the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse. Last year, when prosecutors arraigned Trump, the barricades separated pro-Trump demonstrators with those against the former president.

On Monday, the crowds appear to be mixed, waiting. A few held signs against Trump. There was one large pro-Trump flag waving near the courthouse.

– Eduardo Cuevas

What happens if Trump is found guilty?  

Trump could theoretically face more than a decade in prison if he's convicted on all counts in the criminal hush money case. But several legal experts told USA TODAY such a dramatic outcome is unlikely.

Instead, Trump would likely face a sentence between probation and four years of prison, and he would probably still be out to freely campaign in the 2024 presidential election while his all-but-certain appeal ran its course.

If Trump were sentenced to jail or prison time, it's also unclear what that would look like. As a former president, he enjoys around-the-clock Secret Service protection, and no former president has ever been prosecuted. Special accommodations may be needed at a jail or prison, and the sentencing judge could also consider alternative arrangements such as house arrest or placement at some other secure location.

– Aysha Bagchi

What's happening today in Donald Trump's trial?

Jury selection is scheduled to start Monday and last several days, if not multiple weeks.

The process will involve Trump's legal team and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office wrangling over who should make it into the pool of 12 jurors and several alternates who will be tasked with deciding whether Trump is guilty.

The former president lost a flurry of motions and appeals in recent days seeking to delay the proceedings. But unlike in his three other criminal cases, which deal with allegations that he tried to illegally steal the 2020 presidential election and mishandled classified documents, delay tactics haven't allowed him to avoid the start of this trial.

– Aysha Bagchi

Donald Trump's campaign addresses charges, witnesses and judge

Donald Trump’s campaign issued a statement late Sunday dubbed a “trial fact sheet” as jury selection begins in his New York hush-money case, including that he “did nothing wrong” and the trial is a “full-frontal assault on American Democracy.”

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records to hide payments to Stormy Daniels, before the 2016 election.

Trump’s fact sheet says Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, campaigned in 2021 on the potential to prosecute Trump. Bragg campaigned noting he sued Trump more than 100 times while working at the state Attorney General’s Office.

Trump’s statement also notes that case relies on testimony from his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is a convicted felon, perjurer and disbarred lawyer. The statement also complained about Judge Juan Merchan’s “bizarre” schedule for the trial, as appeals linger to dismiss charges.

“This is an unprecedented abuse of our legal system,” Trump’s statement said about the trial.

– Bart Jansen

Donald Trump lost several bids to delay his hush money trial 

A series of New York judges this month rejected pleas from former President Donald Trump to delay the criminal trial.

In one request, Trump said Judge Juan Merchan should delay the trial until after the Supreme Court has ruled on the scope of presidential immunity in a separate Trump case dealing with federal election interference charges. The high court is scheduled to hear arguments on that issue April 25.

But Merchan said Trump raised the argument too late. Trump only made the argument in March, almost a year after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced the charges on April 4, 2023.

On Friday, Merchan rejected a separate Trump delay request based on his argument that pre-trial publicity about the case created unfair prejudice against him. Merchan said the right way to address that concern is to have a thorough jury selection process.

In addition, last week three different judges from a New York appeals court each rejected last-minute delay requests from Trump. The former president argued he should get a delay until the appeals court rules on his arguments for moving the trial out of Manhattan and tossing out Merchan's limited gag order against him, and until Merchan rules on his latest request for Merchan's recusal.

– Aysha Bagchi

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump trial Day 1 recap: How the hush money case kicked off