First day of Trump's hush money trial: Conspiracy to influence an election?

The former president's lawyer argued that signing an NDA or attempting to influence the elections is not a crime.

"There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It’s called democracy,” said Donald Trump's lawyer on the first day of the country's first criminal trial for a former president. Attorney Todd Blanche said Trump is "innocent" and claimed that the Manhattan district attorney's office "should never have brought this case."

Influencing an election is not a crime

The accusation made by Democratic District Attorney Alvin Bragg stems from an event that occurred eight years ago and was brought up just a few months before the upcoming elections in November. Trump was accused of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to the porn star during the 2016 election. Falsifying business records is a misdemeanor but Bragg has alleged that the falsification of records occurred to commit a criminal scheme to influence the 2016 election.

To this accusation, Trump's lawyer said that there is nothing criminal in trying to influence the elections and that is what democracy is about. The former president's team has also stated on different occasions that it is not a crime to make a confidentiality agreement so that someone does not divulge stories, whether true or not, about a person, and that these types of agreements are drafted every day.

Blanche also claimed in his statements to the jury that prosecutors have no way to prove that the former president had criminal intentions when making these types of agreements. He said that Trump was simply trying to protect his family and his brand, which is not a crime, and that is the main reason why these types of confidentiality agreements exist.

The star witness against Trump

Trump's lawyer also pointed out to the jury that the prosecution's star witness Michael Cohen is not credible. He recalled that Cohen had pleaded guilty to lying under oath, that he has written books and made podcasts about his time working with the former president and that therefore his financial success depends on "destroying" the president.

Along the same lines, he pointed out that porn star Stormy Daniels has benefited financially from all her statements and documentaries in which she talks about Trump, and that having her as a witness contributes nothing to the case since the woman knows nothing about the business records in question. “Her testimony, while salacious, does not matter,” Blanche said.

Lawyers normally reveal the names of witnesses before they testify but this has not been the case in this historic trial against the former president. This is often done so that the opposing party has enough time to prepare for their cross-examination. However, Bragg's prosecutors have said that, unless the judge deems it necessary, they will not reveal the names of their witnesses.

The hearing for the district attorney's request to hold Trump in contempt for allegedly violating his gag order is scheduled for Tuesday, April 23. The former president's legal team said Trump was exercising his right to free speech, and stressed that there is a clear double standard in imposing that order against Trump while the prosecution's star witness, Cohen, can speak freely in the media.