Trump hush money trial: Day 1 ends with attorneys making competing opening statements about Trump

Key things to know:

  • Opening statements in Trump's hush money trial began Monday. 
  • Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to bury stories that he feared could hurt his 2016 campaign.
  • Among those expected to testify are Stormy Daniels, a porn actor who says she had a sexual encounter with Trump, and Michael Cohen, the lawyer who prosecutors say paid her to keep quiet about it.
FILE - Former US President Donald Trump speaks to the media with his lawyer Todd Blanche (R) after leaving the courtroom for the day at Manhattan Criminal Court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, in New York City on April 19, 2024. (Photo by MAANSI SRIVASTAVA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

FILE - Former US President Donald Trump speaks to the media with his lawyer Todd Blanche (R) after leaving the courtroom for the day at Manhattan Criminal Court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital aff

In opening statements for Donald Trump's historic hush money trial, prosecutors said Monday that the former president "orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt" the 2016 presidential election.

Defense attorneys countered, calling Trump "innocent" and saying the Manhattan district attorney's office "should never have brought this case."

The statements gave jurors and the voting public the clearest view yet of the allegations at the heart of the case, as well as insight into Trump's expected defense.

The commencement of the proceedings set the stage for weeks of  testimony about Trump's personal life and placed his legal troubles at the center of his closely contested campaign against President Joe Biden.

Follow along for live updates:

1:02 p.m. ET: Trump addresses reporters after court concludes 

After court wraps for day 1 of testimony, Trump exited the court staring straight ahead and down, joined by lawyers and others from his team. 

"I’m the leading candidate ... and this is what they’re trying to take me off the trail for. Checks being paid to a lawyer," he said to press gathered in the hallway outside. "It’s a case as to bookkeeping, which is a very minor thing," the Associated Press reported. 

12:32 p.m. ET: Court adjourns early

An alternate juror has an emergency dental appointment this afternoon.  On Tuesday, Judge Merchan plans to end at 2 p.m. for the Passover holiday, the Associated Press reported. 

Most jurors looked straight ahead as they passed the defense table on the way out of the courtroom.

12:10 p.m. ET: Trump friend and former National Enquirer publisher takes the stand

The trial’s first witness, David Pecker is the National Enquirer’s former publisher and a longtime Trump friend. Prosecutors say he met with Trump and Cohen at Trump Tower in August 2015 and agreed to help Trump’s campaign identify negative stories about him,t the Associated Press reported. 

Pecker, 72, now consults, including for his old employer, the company formerly known as American Media Inc.

11:58 a.m. ET: Defense attorney focus on Michael Cohen's criminal history

Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche is providing an extensive account of Michael Cohen’s criminal record and his history of lying under oath. Blanche said that Cohen turned against Trump only after he was not given a job in the administration and found himself in legal trouble, the Associated Press reported. 

11:55 a.m. ET: Trump lawyer claims payments were made to protect Trump’s character

While arguing that Trump did nothing illegal when his company recorded the checks to Cohen as legal expenses — prosecutors say they were veiled reimbursements meant to cover up Cohen’s payments to Stormy Daniels. 

The AP noted that Blanche is also challenging the notion that Trump agreed to the Daniels payout to safeguard his campaign.

Acknowledging that the money did change hands close to the election, Blanche characterized the transaction as the then-candidate trying to stop a "sinister" effort to embarrass him and his loved ones. 

11:42 a.m. ET: Defense claims Trump had ‘nothing to do’ with payments

The Associated Press reported that Blanche portrayed the ledger entries at issue in the case as pro forma actions performed by a Trump Organization functionary. Trump "had nothing to do" with the invoice, the check being generated or the entry on the ledger, Blanche said.

While prosecutors claim Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen $420,000 — more than double what Cohen paid to Daniels — because the cover-up was crucial to the campaign, Blanche said the excess payments are proof that Trump had nothing to do with the scheme.

11:30 a.m. ET: Opening arguments from defense and prosecution

Blanche began by stating, "President Trump is innocent. President Trump did not commit any crimes. The Manhattan district attorney’s office should never have brought this case."

In the prosecution’s openings, Donald Trump was referred to as "the defendant." But his own lawyers are referring to him as "President Trump."

10 a.m. ET: Court to end early today, ‘Access Hollywood’ tape allowed into evidence

An alternate juror has an emergency dental appointment this afternoon, and the court will adjourn at 12:30 p.m. local time. Judge Merchan had previously planned to adjourn the trial at 2 p.m. because of Passover. He plans to end at 2 p.m. on Tuesday for the holiday.

Meanwhile, the judge will allow the prosecution to introduce the "Access Hollywood" tape, where Trump boasted about grabbing women’s genitals without permission, into evidence. 

However, he won't allow them to show the actual video in court.

Trump’s lawyers objected to the use of a transcript. But Merchan said that in his view there is "no reason" why a transcript of the video "should not be admitted into evidence."

9:35 am ET: Trump sits down in court ahead of opening statements

The former president filled his cheeks with air and exhaled before sitting down, according to the Associated Press, which noted how photographers quickly crowded around him to snap photos ahead of the proceedings.

The gallery is packed with reporters, and the temperature in the courtroom is slightly warmer than on previous days, where the chill was a subject of much discussion, the AP reported. 

9 a.m. ET: Trump arrives at the courthouse

Image 1 of 2

Former US president and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower to attend his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs in New York, on April 22, 2024.  (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump has arrived at the Manhattan courthouse for the start of the hush money trial, walking straight inside, according to the Associated Press. 

Earlier, he posted some of his most common refrains from Truth Social. "ELECTION INTERFERENCE!!!" he wrote in one post. "WITCH HUNT!!!" in another.

8:20 a.m. ET: Man who set himself on fire outside courthouse dies

The man who set himself on fire last week near the courthouse where Trump is on trial has died, police said.

NYPD officials said early Saturday that the man was declared dead by staff at an area hospital.

Officials identified the man as Max Azzarello who traveled to the city from Florida, likely to promote far-reaching conspiracy theories, according to police.

Video from FOX 5 NY showed the man engulfed in flames outside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse around 1:30 p.m. local time on Friday.

"Police! Police! There's a guy lighting himself on fire," a person is heard yelling in video taken at the scene.

Many police officers were nearby when it happened. Some officers and bystanders rushed to the aid of the man, who was hospitalized in critical condition at the time.

8 a.m. ET: Why isn’t Trump’s trial televised?

Regulations limiting media coverage in courtrooms date back nearly a century, according to the Associated Press. 

The spectacle of bright flashes and camera operators standing on witness tables during the 1935 trial of the man accused of kidnapping and killing Charles Lindbergh’s baby son horrified the legal community, the AP reported, citing a 2022 report by the New York-based Fund for Modern Courts.

But an interest in open government chipped away at these laws and — slowly, carefully — video cameras began to be permitted in courts across the country, often at the discretion of judges presiding in individual cases.

New York allowed them, too, on an experimental basis between 1987 and 1997, but they were shut down. 

Lobbyists for defense lawyers remain strong in New York and hold particular sway among lawyers in the state Assembly, Victor Kovner, a former New York City corporation counsel who advocates for open courtrooms, told the AP.

Trump's hush money case

The indictment against Trump centers on payoffs allegedly made to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. 

Trump’s former lawyer and "fixer," Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 and arranged for the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid to pay McDougal $150,000. 

Trump's company, the Trump Organization, then reimbursed Cohen and paid him bonuses and extra payments – all of which, prosecutors say, were falsely logged as legal expenses in company records. Over several months, Cohen said the company paid him $420,000.

Payments were also allegedly made to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged Trump had out of wedlock.

The indictment, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, made Trump the first ex-president ever to face criminal charges. 

Trump has denied the accusations.

Who will appear in court?

Witnesses in the trial will include Cohen, Daniels, and McDougal. 

David Pecker, the National Enquirer’s former publisher and a longtime friend of Trump, and Hope Hicks, Trump’s former White House communications director, are also set to appear. 

Who are the jurors?

After being forced to release a seated juror, the judge on Thursday ordered the media not to report on where potential jurors have worked – even when stated in open court – and to be careful about revealing information about those who will sit in judgment of the former president. Here's what we can report.

Juror 1 and foreperson: A man who lives in New York City and has no children. Loves the outdoors and gets his news from The New York Times, Daily Mail, Fox News and MSNBC. 

When asked by Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche if he was aware Trump is charged in other cases and jurisdictions, and how that affects him, the man said, "I don’t have an opinion." 

Juror 2: A man who said he follows Trump’s former lawyer, Cohen, on "X," formerly known as Twitter. He also revealed he follows other right-wing accounts including Trump’s former adviser, Kellyanne Conway. 

He has said he would unfollow Cohen as he may be a witness in the trial. 

Juror 3: A middle-aged man who lives in Manhattan. He grew up in Oregon. He gets his news from The New York Times and Google. 

Juror 4: A man who lived in New York City for 15 years. He is originally from California. He is married with three children and a wife who is a teacher. He has served on a jury before – both on a grand jury and a jury in a criminal trial. 

The juror said he gets his news from "a smattering" of sources and does not use social media. 

Juror 5: A young woman who is a New York native. 

She gets most of her news from Google and Tiktok. 

Juror 6: A young woman who lives in Manhattan and likes to dance. 

Juror 7: A man who is married with two children. 

He gets most of his news from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and The Washington Post. The man has said he is aware there are other lawsuits but said, "I’m not sure that I know anyone’s character." 

Juror 8: No information has been released about this juror. 

Juror 9: A woman who lives in Manhattan. She is not married and has no children. 

She has never served on a jury before and does not watch the news. However, she said she does have email subscriptions to CNN and The New York Times. She follows social media accounts and listens to podcasts. She also enjoys watching reality TV. 

Juror 10: A man who lives in Manhattan. He is not married and has no children. He does have a roommate who works in accounting. He rarely follows the news but he does listen to podcasts on behavioral psychology. 

Juror 11: No information has been released about this juror. 

Juror 12: No information has been released about this juror. 

How long will the trial last? 

The trial is expected to last anywhere from six to eight weeks. Trump is expected to attend court each day.

How can I watch the Trump trial?

The trial is not being televised. Instead, news reporters and producers will have the ability to sit inside the courtroom and deliver information to the public.

How many court cases is Trump involved in?

As of this report, Trump is currently involved in four criminal cases, which includes the hush money case. 

A second case out of Fulton County, Georgia, has charged Trump, as well as 18 others, with participating in a scheme to illegally attempt to overturn the former president’s loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. 

Trump is also involved in a third criminal case out of Washington, D.C., which charged him with allegedly conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. 

And his fourth case involves classified documents that Trump illegally retained at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he left the White House. 

RELATED: A guide to Trump’s court cases

The Associated Press, FOX News, FOX 5 NY and Catherine Stoddard contributed to this report.