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Jury selection is set to begin in the first of former President Donald Trump’s four pending criminal cases, where he faces charges related to hush money payments to cover up an alleged affair. This will be a historic moment in U.S. history, as it marks the first time a former president will face criminal trial. The trial is expected to be a circus, with Trump being required to be in the courtroom to listen to witness testimony from figures like Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels. Despite Trump’s efforts to delay proceedings, Judge Juan Merchan dismissed his motions, allowing the trial to move forward. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought forth 34 felony charges against Trump, citing the importance of business integrity and accurate record-keeping in New York.

The charges against Trump stem from allegations of illegal cover-up of hush money payments made on his behalf to Daniels and two other individuals. While the alleged affairs themselves are not illegal, prosecutors argue that Trump violated the law by concealing the payment. In 2016, when the hush money payments were made, Trump’s image was already tarnished by a leaked “Access Hollywood” tape and allegations of sexual assault. The handling of these payments through a shell company and disguised as legal fees is what resulted in the current charges against Trump. Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, already pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and served time for related charges.

Manhattan District Attorney Bragg is aiming to show that Trump’s falsification of business records was done to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, thus turning a misdemeanor-level crime into a felony. The trial will rely on jury selection to determine the final outcome, with questions designed to gauge potential jurors’ media consumption and opinions on Trump. Critics argue that the charges are minor and politically motivated, potentially playing into Trump’s narrative of being persecuted by Democrats. Despite the seriousness of the charges, Trump has compared his legal troubles to those of infamous mob boss Al Capone, who was ultimately convicted on tax evasion charges rather than more serious crimes.

Judge Merchan has imposed a gag order on Trump, barring him from launching public attacks on trial participants, though he is still likely to hold press conferences during the trial. The upcoming trial will test Trump’s ability to navigate the criminal justice system as he faces the possibility of jail time for the first time in his life. While his legal team has managed to delay other trials, the New York case appears to be moving forward at a faster pace. The trial, involving Trump’s handling of hush money payments, will set a precedent for future cases involving former presidents and their legal accountability. Ultimately, the fate of Trump’s potential presidential bid in 2024 could rest on the outcome of this trial.

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