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Trump's criminal investigation is moving to the center of his election campaign

Former US President Donald Trump returned to Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Thursday for the third day of jury selection in his historic 34-count trial on 34 counts of falsifying documents to cover up a $130,000 hush money he paid to Stephanie Clifford. The porn actress known as “Stormy Daniels” claims she had an affair with him during the 2016 presidential campaign.

As the process to select 12 jurors and six alternates enters a key and perhaps final phase, preliminary arguments to decide the issue of so-called “hush money” (the ticket for November's presidential election) will begin next week (Al-Muqel, the first US president to face criminal charges). At the end of this trial, New Yorker judges must decide: “Guilty” or “Not Guilty.”

The jury selection process began on Monday with no one selected from the 96-member panel, then on Tuesday seven more were selected from the 96-member panel.

The process of selecting the remaining five judges and six alternates from a different basket of 96 continued on Thursday. But one of the seven jurors selected Tuesday asked Judge Juan Merchan to excuse him from the task after his name was released in the media. The judge accepted her request. Speaking to reporters later, he asked that the jurors' positions not be released. The incident is a step back in the investigation.

Softness and inhibitions

However, there was hope that the arbitrator selection process would proceed smoothly. After that, Trump's prosecutors and defense attorneys are expected to present their first briefs, possibly as soon as next Monday or Tuesday, a crucial moment in the case, paving the way for a trial that could last weeks, Judge Merson said. The former president is at the center of his presidential campaign against President Joe Biden, the most likely candidate among Democrats, posing legal risks that he has exposed, and would return to the White House if he wins. The next election is on November 5. The investigation included unsavory testimony about Trump's personal life in the years before he became president in 2016.

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Former US President Donald Trump sits in a Manhattan courtroom (AP) between his two defense attorneys, Todd Blanche and Emily Bowe.

“Hush Money” focuses on Stormy Daniels, who received $130,000 in bribes from Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen shortly before the 2016 election, and kept quiet about a meeting with Trump in the final days of the presidential race that ended in his narrow victory. against his Democratic rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In addition to the Trump Tower doorman, who has a story about an out-of-wedlock child, the case also sheds new light on Playboy magazine model Karen McDougall. relationship Trump confirmed that none of these alleged meetings took place.

Although the jury selection process in Trump's “hush money” case follows a familiar pattern, it can lead to unexpected results. Trump supporter.

Prosecutors say Trump withheld the authenticity of the payments in internal records when his company paid restitution to Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2018 and is expected to be a key witness for the prosecution.

Trump denied any romantic encounters with Daniels. His attorneys say the payments to Cohen are legitimate legal expenses.

Charge of contempt

At the start of the third day of the jury selection process, prosecutors asked Judge Juan Merchan to hold the former president in contempt of court and fine him for social media posts that defied the judge's scathing order.

A small crowd in front of a Manhattan court during the trial of former US President Donald Trump (AFP).

Trump posted on his “truly social” social media site. Prosecutor Christopher Conroy said he referred to Cohen as a “serial juror” in several posts, then repeated the Fox News host's claim that liberal activists lie to get on juries.

Attorney Emily Bowe, Trump's defense agent, responded that Cohen was “attacking President Trump in his public statements” and that Trump was merely responding.

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If convicted of the basic charges, Trump could face up to four years in prison on each count, and a prison term of up to 20 years if convicted on all 34 counts, though it's unclear whether Judge Merchan will choose that. To put him behind bars. Trump will surely appeal any sentence.

The “hush money” case is one of four criminal cases Trump will face during his campaign to return to the White House, but may be the only one to be ruled on before the election.

Appeals and other legal battles have delayed lawsuits accusing Trump of conspiring to alter the results of the 2020 election and illegally storing classified documents.

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