Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Sam Levine in New York

Trump ratchets up attacks on judge and prosecutor ahead of hush-money trial

man in a suit and red tie addresses reporters
Donald Trump speaks after hearing at New York criminal court on 25 March 2024. Photograph: Spencer Platt/AP

A defiant Donald Trump continued to attack the prosecutor, judge and a key witness in the New York hush-money criminal trial against him, a signal that the former president will embrace bombast as jury selection in the case begins on Monday.

Trump described what will be the first criminal trial against a former US president as a “communist show trial”, during a rally in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, on Saturday. He also described his indictment as a “badge of honor” and cast himself as a martyr for his supporters. “I’m proud to do it for you,” he said.

“On Monday in New York City, I will be forced to sit, fully gagged,” he added.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection to a $130,000 payment he made in 2016 to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star, to keep quiet about an alleged affair. The charges were filed last year by Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney.

Despite his legal travails, Trump is the almost certain Republican presidential nominee for the November presidential election. Polling between Trump and Joe Biden is close, with Trump regularly showing a narrow lead in head-to-head surveys and performing strongly in key swing states.

After repeated attacks, Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the hush-money case, issued a gag order prohibiting Trump from speaking about witnesses, jurors, lawyers, court staff and the families of Merchan and Bragg. The order does not prevent Trump from attacking Merchan or Bragg directly.

Trump appeared willing to test the boundaries of that gag order as late as Saturday, tweeting about Michael Cohen, his former lawyer who facilitated the payments to Daniels and is a star witness in the case.

Cohen paid Daniels through a shell company and then was repaid a total of $420,000 by Trump over the course of 2017. Trump Organization officials falsely listed the payments as legal expenses, even though Cohen had no legal retainer with Trump or the Trump Organization.

“Has Mark POMERANTZ been prosecuted for his terrible acts in and out of the DA’s Office. Has disgraced attorney and felon Michael Cohen been prosecuted for LYING? Only TRUMP people get prosecuted by this Judge and these thugs! A dark day for our Country. MAGA2024!!!” he wrote in a post on Truth Social, his social media platform.

Trump issued a series of other posts on Saturday seeking to undermine the credibility of the trial by attacking Bragg, a Democrat, and Merchan.

“WHY DIDN’T THE MANHATTAN DA BRING THIS RIDICULOUS & LAMBASTED CASE SEVEN YEARS AGO? Because they are corrupt and wanted to use it for purposes of Election Interference against Crooked Joe Biden’s Political Opponent!” he posted. Bragg was elected Manhattan district attorney in 2021.

Bragg’s predecessor, Cy Vance, started investigating Trump in 2019, but was more interested in bringing charges based on Trump’s falsification of business records. Bragg reversed on that strategy when he took office and chose to move ahead on the hush-money case. Bragg’s approach angered two prosecutors, Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, who resigned in 2022 over how Bragg was handling the investigation.

Trump also sought to attach the case to Biden, who has no jurisdiction over the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

The trial is far from a slam dunk for Bragg. Falsifying business records is a misdemeanor in New York state and is only elevated to a felony if there is an intent to commit another crime. Bragg has said Trump intended to violate campaign finance and tax laws with his scheme, a somewhat novel legal theory.

Trump faces three other criminal cases, but has successfully delayed all of them.

That has forced the New York case and the paper crimes at the heart of it to take on increased importance since it may be the only case to go to trial before the 2024 election. Bragg has sought to reframe the case not just as a matter of falsifying business records, but a matter of election interference, saying Trump was trying to conceal critical information from voters on the eve of the 2016 election.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.