Donald Trump makes history as first former US president to stand trial

Monday 15 April will go down in history as the start of the first criminal trial of a former US president. Ex-president and current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will stand trial in Manhattan, New York, for paying 130,000 dollars in hush money to former adult-film star Stormy Daniels.

In October 2016, shortly before the presidential election, Trump's then personal lawyer Michael Cohen paid Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged sexual affair with Trump in 2006. While paying hush money is not illegal, according to prosecutor Alvin J Bragg, Trump illegally declared Cohen's reimbursement as a legal expense.

In total, Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records. Two other payments are also mentioned in the case: 30,000 dollars to a former Trump Tower doorman who claimed Trump had an illegitimate child, which turned out to be untrue, and 150,000 dollars to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy playmate.

Trump faces up to four years in prison on each count. He has always denied the charges, calling them a politically motivated witch hunt.

Uncertain outcome

The outcome of the trial is highly uncertain as Bragg has based the case on an untested legal theory. The judge could also throw out the case because Bragg is trying a federal crime - misuse of campaign funds - on the basis of a violation of a state law, falsifying business records. Finally, the case flirts with the statute of limitations, which for fraud is five years.

As Trump is a first-time offender, even if he is convicted, there is little chance he will go to prison. Judge Juan Merchan could decide to combine the sentences or impose probation. In any case, even if he does go to prison, Trump will still be able to participate in the US presidential election.

Trump's attempts to postpone the trial having been unsuccessful, the case will begin on Monday at 9.30 local time (15.30 Belgian time) with the selection of the jury that will decide on his guilt or innocence. The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks and Trump is required by law to attend the entire trial.

This case is the first of four criminal cases against Trump, and possibly the only one that will be resolved before 5 November, the date of the US election. The others involve Trump's attempts to influence the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents.



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