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Nine questions about the Trump trial, answered



Nine questions about the Trump trial, answered

Former President Donald Trump’s hush money court case will kick off on Monday, marking the first time a former president will stand trial over criminal charges. 

The historic trial will require Trump, the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for the 2024 election, to defend himself from the Manhattan courtroom while simultaneously campaigning as the election season heats up. 

Fox News Digital compiled the top questions regarding the case ahead of it kicking off Monday at 10 a.m in Lower Manhattan.  

According to initial reports, the U.S. Supreme Court appeared skeptical of the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to remove former President Trump from the state primary ballot on Thursday.  (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

What are the origins of this case?

Dubbed the “hush money case,” the trial’s origins reach back to October of 2016, when Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen paid former pornographic actor Stormy Daniels $130,000 to allegedly quiet her claims of an alleged extramarital affair she had with the then-real estate tycoon in 2006. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels. 

Stormy Daniels stands in front of a pink background

Stormy Daniels speaking to the media.  (Phillip Faraone/Getty Images)

The case is also expected to feature two other payments, including a $30,000 payment to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed that Trump fathered a child out of wedlock, and arranged a $150,000 payment through a tabloid publisher to a former Playboy model named Karen McDougal, who also claimed she had an affair with Trump and sold her story to the tabloid. Trump has also vehemently denied these allegations. 


Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, right, outside federal court in New York on Thursday, December 14, 2023. Photographer: Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images (Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Prosecutors allege that the Trump Organization reimbursed Cohen, and fraudulently logged the payments as legal expenses.   

“During the election, TRUMP and others employed a ‘catch and kill’ scheme to identify, purchase, and bury negative information about him and boost his electoral prospects,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleged last year. “TRUMP then went to great lengths to hide this conduct, causing dozens of false entries in business records to conceal criminal activity, including attempts to violate state and federal election laws.”

“Catch-and-kill” schemes are understood as tactics used by media and publishing companies to buy the rights of a person’s story with the intention of burying the information.



What are the charges in the case?

Bragg announced Trump’s indictment in April of 2023 with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree.

The charges stem from checks reimbursing Cohen over a roughly 12-month period for paying Daniels in 2016. Cohen was separately arrested in 2018 and pleaded guilty to campaign finance charges and lying to Congress. He was sentenced to three years in prison and has since been released. 

Falsifying business records is a misdemeanor, but prosecutors are working to prove that Trump falsified records with an intent to commit or conceal a second crime, which would be a felony. 

Trump speaking

Former President Donald Trump during a Super Tuesday election night watch party at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Trump notched a series of Republican presidential primary victories on Tuesday as he barrels closer toward his party’s nomination. Photographer: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images (Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Could Trump go to prison?

The charges against Trump carry more than a decade in prison, if he is convicted on the counts.



Legal experts across the nation have weighed in that it is unlikely Trump would face a long prison sentence, if convicted, speculating that the 45th president would instead be given probation or up to four years in prison if found guilty by the jury, Fox News previously reported

How has Bragg turned this into a felony?

Charges of falsifying business records are misdemeanors in New York, with prosecutors teeing up a case arguing that Trump falsified the business records to cover another crime, which makes falsifying the records a felony. Legal experts have weighed in that prosecutors will argue that Trump’s alleged actions were to ​​conceal campaign finance crimes.

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a news conference on Thursday, March 7, 2024, in Manhattan, New York. (Barry Williams/New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Legal experts who spoke to Fox News Digital expressed skepticism over the DA’s office linking the case to campaign finance crimes, with the Heritage Foundation’s senior legal fellow Zack Smith saying that prosecutors are trying to “bootstrap essentially what would ordinarily be misdemeanor charges into felony offenses.” 



“Some of the charges he’s trying to bring are false records charges against Donald Trump. Which are ordinarily misdemeanors, unless they were done in furtherance of another felony – simply to cover up another felony. And in this case, as I understand it, Alvin Bragg is saying that the other felony was a federal campaign finance violation. So, you simply have a state prosecutor pursuing a state case against Donald Trump, based on a federal felony offense that the federal government, the Justice Department itself, declined to pursue,” Smith told Fox News Digital in an interview earlier this month. 

The Justice Department in 2019 “effectively concluded” its investigation into Trump’s payments. In 2021, the Federal Elections Commission, the agency dedicated to enforcing campaign finance laws, announced that it had dropped a case looking into whether Trump had violated election laws for the payment to Daniels. 

Former FEC member Hans Von Spakovsky underscored to Fox News Digital in another interview that both the FEC and DOJ had declined to pursue the case, yet a local DA is working to prove that Trump violated federal law. 

“The [FEC] looked at this and said that this settlement was not a violation of federal law. The Justice Department also has criminal enforcement authority over federal campaign finance laws, and the Justice Department has also not considered this a crime. And so you have this local DA claiming there’s a violation of federal law, when the two federal agencies with enforcement authority over that law say, ‘Well, no, there there was no violation of federal law.’ And look, I say that as a former commissioner on the FEC. My job as a commissioner was to enforce federal campaign finance law, and this is simply not a violation of federal law,” he said. 

Can Trump pardon himself if elected? 

In the hush money case, Trump could not pardon himself if convicted, and if he wins re-election come November 5. The Constitution dictates that a president’s pardoning powers “grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States,” meaning the powers only apply to federal cases. The hush money case is a state case. 


Who is the judge? 

Manhattan Judge Juan M. Merchan, 61, is presiding over the case. Merchan, originally from Colombia, has served on the New York Supreme Court since 2009, overseeing felony criminal cases. He previously served as an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan DA’s office in the 1990s and worked in the New York State Attorney General’s office, among other roles. 


Ny courtroom

FILE PHOTO: A view of Judge Juan Manuel Merchan’s courtroom in New York City, March 12, 2024. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo (Reuters)

Merchan has previously overseen high-profile cases, including in 2012 the case of the “soccer mom madam,” when a woman named Anna Gristina was charged with running a high-end prostitution ring in Manhattan. He also presided over the Trump Organization’s 2022 criminal trial involving charges of criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records, and he is currently overseeing a case involving Trump-supporter Steven Bannon on charges that he defrauded donors to build a wall along the nation’s southern border. 

Trump has railed against Merchan on Truth Social, including last month when he called on the judge to recuse himself and cited Merchan’s daughter and her work as a political consultant for Democratic politicians. 


Judge Merchan poses for photo

Judge Juan Merchan poses in his chambers, Thursday, March 14, 2024, in New York. A dozen Manhattan residents are soon to become the first Americans ever to sit in judgment of a former president charged with a crime. Jury selection is set to start Monday in former President Donald Trump’s hush-money trial. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) (AP Photos)

“Judge Juan Merchan, who is suffering from an acute case of Trump Derangement Syndrome (whose daughter represents Crooked Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff, and other Radical Liberals, has just posted a picture of me behind bars, her obvious goal, and makes it completely impossible for me to get a fair trial) has now issued another illegal, un-American, unConstitutional ‘order,’ as he continues to try and take away my Rights,” Trump posted on Truth Social last month after he was given a gag order limiting what he could publicly say about the case. 

How will the jury be selected?

A large group of potential jurors will gather in the courtroom this week, where they will be presented with an overview of the case and asked whether they are able to serve in a fair and impartial manner. 


Those who show they cannot be impartial will be dismissed, while those who remain will be asked a series of 42 questions, which Merchan released in a letter last week, including: 

  • “Do you have any political, moral, intellectual, or religious beliefs or opinions which might prevent you from following the court’s instructions on the law or which might slant your approach to this case?”
  • “Have you read (or listened to audio) of any of the following books or podcasts by Michael Cohen or Mark Pomerantz?”
  • “Have you ever considered yourself a supporter of or belonged to any of the following: the QAnon movement; Proud Boys; Oathkeepers; Three Percenters; Boogaloo.”
  • “Do you currently follow Donald Trump on any social media site or have you done so in the past?”
  • “Do you have any feelings or opinions about how Mr. Trump is being treated in this case?”

Jury selection will continue until 12 New Yorkers and a handful of alternates are assigned to the panel. 


Former President Donald Trump arrives for a press conference at a Manhattan court, March 25, 2024, in New York. Trump will make history as the first former president to stand trial on criminal charges when his hush-money case opens with jury selection. The case will force the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to juggle campaigning with sitting in a Manhattan courtroom for weeks to defend himself against charges involving a scheme to bury allegations of marital infidelity that arose during his first White House campaign in 2016. 

What is Trump saying about the case?

Trump has railed against the “hush money” case repeatedly, including in Pennsylvania on Saturday, where he held his last scheduled campaign rally ahead of the trial officially beginning Monday. 


“I will be forced to sit fully gagged. I’m not allowed to talk. They want to take away my constitutional right to talk,” Trump said in Pennsylvania, referring to the gag order that prevents him from publicly discussing potential witnesses and jurors.


“I’m proud to do it for you,” he continued, calling the trial a “communist show trial” which he claims is orchestrated by the Biden administration. “Have a good time watching.” 

Trump has repeatedly denied the allegations in the case and has pleaded not guilty to the 34 charges. 

The 45th president told reporters on Friday that he will testify in the trial, which he described as a “scam” and a “witch hunt.” 


“I’m testifying. I tell the truth. I mean, all I can do is tell the truth,” he said at Mar-a-Lago Friday, Fox News previously reported. “And the truth is that there’s no case.”

Will the trial be televised?

The trial will not be televised and is anticipated to last between six and eight weeks. Trump is required under New York law to be in the courtroom throughout court proceedings.

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New Hampshire political consultant behind AI-powered Biden robocalls hit with 24 criminal charges, $6M fine



New Hampshire political consultant behind AI-powered Biden robocalls hit with 24 criminal charges, $6M fine

The New Hampshire political consultant behind robocalls mimicking President Biden is now facing 24 criminal charges, 13 of which are felony counts.

Steve Kramer admitted to commissioning robocalls that used artificial intelligence to generate a voice similar to President Biden encouraging recipients not to participate in the primary.

The Federal Communications Commission also announced $6 million in fines against Kramer.

“It’s important that you save your vote for the November election,” the illicit calls stated, according to New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella. The calls added, “Your vote makes a difference in November, not this Tuesday.” 



In this image taken from video, Steve Kramer speaks during an interview in Miami. (AP Photo)

“After we received multiple reports and complaints on the day these calls were made and the day after these calls were made, my office immediately opened an investigation,” Formella said.

He described how his office’s Election Law Unit worked with the Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force, a bipartisan task force made up of 50 state attorneys general and the Federal Communications Commission Enforcement Bureau. 

Kramer previously told local outlet News 9 he produced the phone calls as a stunt to demonstrate the need to regulate AI technology.


New Hampshire officials announce robocall probe

New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella describes the investigation into robocalls that used artificial intelligence to mimic President Biden’s voice and discourage people from voting in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary during a news conference in Concord, N.H. (Amanda Gokee/The Boston Globe via AP)

“Maybe I’m a villain today, but I think, in the end, we get a better country and better democracy because of what I’ve done, deliberately,” Kramer previously said of the investigation.

The New Hampshire robocalls sparked immediate action in outlawing deep fakes impersonating political candidates. The FCC ruled the practice illegal in February. 


FCC commissioner

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Pool via AP, File)

With the unanimous adoption of a ruling that recognizes calls made with AI-generated voices as “artificial” under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a 1991 law restricting junk calls that use artificial and prerecorded voice messages, the FCC said it was giving state attorneys general new tools to go after those responsible for voice-cloning scams. 



“Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities and misinform voters. We’re putting the fraudsters behind these robocalls on notice,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.

“State Attorneys General will now have new tools to crack down on these scams and ensure the public is protected from fraud and misinformation.”

Fox News’ Danielle Wallace and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Supreme Court OKs shift of Black voters to shore up GOP congressional district



Supreme Court OKs shift of Black voters to shore up GOP congressional district

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a state’s mapmakers may shift tens of thousands of Black voters to a different district if they were seeking to shore up a partisan advantage for a Republican candidate.

In a 6-3 decision, the justices upheld a redistricting map drawn by South Carolina’s Republican Legislature and overturned a lower court ruling that called it a “stark racial gerrymander.”

At issue was whether the state legislators drew the districts for political or racial reasons.

All six Republican appointees were in the majority and said the legislators were motivated by partisan concerns, while the three Democratic appointees dissented and said voters were shifted based on their race.


In the past, the court had said that partisan gerrymandering is legal and as old as the nation, but racial gerrymandering is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

The justices reasoned that the Constitution permits elected officials to make decisions based on political considerations, but the 14th Amendment forbids the government from making decisions based on race.

Not surprisingly, however, those two principles come into conflict in the drawing of election districts. At issue in the South Carolina case was a congressional district in the Charleston area held by Republican Rep. Nancy Mace.

That district had regularly elected Republicans, but a Democrat won it in 2018 in what was described as a major upset. Mace ran in 2020 and won a narrow victory.

When the South Carolina Legislature redrew its seven districts in response to the 2020 Census, the mapmakers sought to shore up her district as a Republican stronghold. They shifted more than 30,000 Black voters from Mace’s district in Charleston into a Black-majority district held by Rep. James E. Clyburn, the state’s lone Democrat.


Lawyers for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU sued and argued the state’s redistricting plan was unconstitutional. They won a ruling from a three-judge court which said “race was the predominant motivating factor” in the drawing of Mace’s district.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr, speaking for the court, said the evidence showed that partisan motives were driving force.

“To untangle race from other permissible considerations, we require the plaintiff to show that race was the predominant factor motivating the legislature’s decision to place a significant number of voters within or without a particular district,” Alito said. He added that the plaintiffs did not show race was the dominant factor in drawing the districts.

Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson dissented.

“What a message to send to state legislators and mapmakers about racial gerrymandering,” Kagan said in dissent. “Go right ahead, this court says to states today. …In the electoral sphere especially, where ugly patterns of pervasive racial discrimination have so long governed, we should demand better— of ourselves, of our political representatives, and most of all of this court.”


Unlike other redistricting cases from Alabama and Louisiana, the immediate impact of the South Carolina case looks to be limited.

Civil rights lawsuits in Alabama and Louisiana led to the creation of a second Black-majority district where a Democrat could be elected. The South Carolina litigation did not involve a possible second Black-majority district.

In March, the three judges who had struck down Mace’s district issued an order that allows this year’s election to proceed using the state’s preferred map.

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AOC demands Senate Democrats investigate reports of Jan. 6 flags flown at Supreme Court Justice Alito's home



AOC demands Senate Democrats investigate reports of Jan. 6 flags flown at Supreme Court Justice Alito's home

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., demanded the Democrat-controlled Senate investigate reports that a flag associated with the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol was flown at Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s home. 

In an interview on MSNBC’s “All in with Chris Hayes” on Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez described the reports as “an extraordinary breach of not just the trust and the stature of the Supreme Court, but we are seeing a fundamental challenge to our democracy.” She said that Congress did not have to wait to take action against Alito until Democrats had a majority in the House. 

“Samuel Alito has identified himself with the same people who raided the Capitol on Jan. 6, and is now going to be presiding over court cases that have deep implications over the participants of that rally,” the progressive “Squad” member said. “And while this is the threat to our democracy, Democrats have a responsibility for defending our democracy. And in the Senate, we have gavels.”

“There should be subpoenas going out. There should be active investigations that are happening,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And I believe that when House Democrats take the majority, we are preparing and ensuring to support the broader effort to stand up our democracy. But I also believe that when Democrats have power, we have to use it. We cannot be in perpetual campaign mode. We need to be in governance mode, we need to be in accountability mode with every lever that we have. Because we cannot take a Senate majority for granted, a House majority for granted or a White House for granted.” 

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that a second flag of a type carried by rioters during the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was displayed outside a house owned by Alito. 



Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., called for Senate Democrats to investigate flags flown outside a home owned by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.  (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

An “Appeal to Heaven” flag was flown outside Alito’s beach vacation home last summer. An inverted American flag — another symbol carried by rioters — was seen at Alito’s home outside Washington less than two weeks after the riot at the Capitol. 

News of the upside-down American flag sparked an uproar last week, including calls from high-ranking Democrats for Alito to recuse himself from cases related to former President Trump.

Alito and the court have not commented on the “Appeal to Heaven” flag. Alito previously said the inverted American flag was flown by his wife amid a dispute with neighbors, and he had no part in it.


The white flag with a green pine tree was seen flying at the Alito beach home in New Jersey, according to three photographs obtained by the Times. The images were taken on different dates in July and September 2023, though it was not clear how long it was flying overall or how much time Alito spent there.

Alito and his wife at Billy Graham funeral

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr., left, and his wife Martha-Ann Alito, pay their respects at the casket of Reverend Billy Graham at the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, Feb. 28, 2018.  (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

The flag dates back to the Revolutionary War, but in more recent years it has become associated with conservatives, Christian nationalism and support for Trump, according to the Times.

It was carried by some rioters fueled by Trump’s “Stop the Steal” movement. 


Republicans in Congress and state officials have also displayed the flag. House Speaker Mike Johnson, hung it at his office last fall shortly after winning the gavel. A spokesman said the speaker appreciates its rich history and was given the flag by a pastor who served as a guest chaplain for the House, according to the Associated Press. 

An Appeal to Heaven flag among Trump supporters

Crowds arrive for the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. An “Appeal to Heaven” flag is seen being flown by a supporter. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Alito is taking part in two pending Supreme Court cases associated with Jan. 6: whether Trump has immunity from prosecution for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and whether a certain obstruction charge can be used against rioters. He also participated in the court’s unanimous ruling that states cannot bar Trump from the ballot using the “insurrection clause” that was added to the Constitution after the Civil War.

There has been no indication that Alito would step aside from the cases. 

Another conservative on the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas, also has ignored calls to recuse himself from cases related to the 2020 election because of his wife Virginia Thomas’ support for efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Judicial ethics codes focus on the need for judges to be independent, avoiding political statements or opinions on matters they could be called on to decide. The Supreme Court had long gone without its own code of ethics, but it adopted one in November 2023 in the face of sustained criticism over undisclosed trips and gifts from wealthy benefactors to some justices. The code, however, lacks a means of enforcement.


The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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