Trump’s first criminal trial begins Monday in Manhattan. Here’s what to know.

Donald Trump outside courtroom
Former President Donald Trump speaks to reporters outside a New York courtroom during his business fraud trial.
File Photo by Dean Moses

Donald Trump, the former president, is set to go on trial in Manhattan Monday related to alleged hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels, the first time in American history for a president current or past.

The former president will go on trial at the Manhattan courthouse at 100 Centre St. on charges he falsified business records to cover up the $130,000 hush money payments to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, at the tail end of the presidential campaign in 2016. Trump and Daniels allegedly had sex in 2006 at a celebrity golf tournament, soon after Trump’s marriage to his wife Melania and the birth of their son Barron.

Police say to expect street closures in the area around the Manhattan courthouse downtown as an avalanche of law enforcement and media descend on the area. Barricades were already erected outside the location Sunday afternoon, and signs hung from the streetlamps advising drivers not to park there during the week ahead.

Trump faces 34 felony counts in the indictment brought last year by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The hush money charges are just one of four criminal indictments faced by Trump as he runs for reelection this year against President Joe Biden, in a rematch of the 2020 race.

The former president is also facing federal criminal charges on attempting to subvert the 2020 election, culminating in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot, as well as on allegedly stealing classified documents from the White House and storing them at his Mar-a-Lago estate; he further faces criminal charges in Georgia under that state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute for his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results there.

Trump has already faced repeated trials on civil matters, including on business fraud charges against the Trump organization and on sexual assault and defamation charges brought by E. Jean Carroll, and he has been found liable for hundreds of millions of dollars. But Monday will represent the first time he, or any president, is on trial in a criminal proceeding.

Falsifying New York business records alone is a misdemeanor, but Bragg opted to charge the president with felonies because the acts were allegedly done in furtherance of another criminal act. Namely, Bragg alleges the hush money payments constituted an illegal contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign.

A sign ordering no parking this week near the courthouse, which is expected to be a frenzy of law enforcement and international media.Photo by Dean Moses

The trial will begin on Monday with jury selection, with the case presided over by Justice Juan Merchan of Manhattan Supreme Court.

As with the judges in his other cases, Trump has repeatedly lashed out publicly against Merchan, denigrating the jurist and his daughter, a Democratic political consultant, on social media and in speeches. Merchan issued a gag order last month against the unruly former president barring him from speaking publicly about either witnesses in the case or Merchan and his family.

Prosecutors’ key witness is expected to be Michael Cohen, Trump’s erstwhile personal attorney who made the payment to Daniels and was later reimbursed by the Trump Organization. Cohen was sentenced in 2018 to three years in jail on charges including arranging the hush money payments; he has since been released and has flipped on his former client, and he is expected to testify on his role in the hush money payments and what Trump allegedly directed him to do.

Trump’s lawyers will likely try to paint Cohen as habitually dishonest during cross-examination. Daniels is also expected to take the stand.

Two other alleged recipients of hush money payments are also expected to testify: Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate who had an alleged tryst with Trump, and Dino Sajudin, a doorman at Trump Tower allegedly paid to keep quiet about a child Trump had fathered out of wedlock.

Daniels, McDougal, and Sajudin were all the targets of a purported “catch-and-kill” scheme dreamt up at Trump Tower between Cohen and David Pecker, head of the parent company of the National Enquirer, wherein Pecker would pay for exclusive rights to stories that he would then kill to avoid damaging Trump’s campaign.

Pecker, also likely to take the stand, allegedly orchestrated the payments to McDougal and Sajudin and tipped off Cohen about Daniels’ explosive allegations at the tail end of the 2016 presidential campaign, when Trump was also dealing with the fallout from the Access Hollywood tape.

The trial is expected to last about six weeks. Jury selection could take a considerable amount of time as lawyers attempt to find 12 New Yorkers without strong opinions on the former president.

Trump could theoretically face up to four years in prison if found guilty, but legal experts say jail time is unlikely in such a case for a first-time, nonviolent offender.