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Trump will be first ex-president on criminal trial. Here's what to know about the hush money case

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Trump will be first ex-president on criminal trial. Here's what to know about the hush money case
  • When Donald Trump’s hush money case opens on Monday, he will become the first former president to stand trial on criminal charges.
  • Trump, while juggling his presidential campaign, will defend himself against charges that involve a scheme to bury allegations of marital infidelity.
  • He is being charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records — a charge that carries up to 4 years in prison.

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump will make history as the first former president to stand trial on criminal charges when his hush money case opens Monday 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.

TRUMP REQUEST TO DELAY HUSH-MONEY TRIAL DENIED FOR THIRD TIME

It carries enormous political ramifications as potentially the only one of four criminal cases against Trump that could reach a verdict before voters decide in November whether to send him back to the White House.

Here’s what to know about the hush money case and the charges against Trump:

WHAT’S THIS CASE ABOUT?

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The former president is accused of falsifying internal Trump Organization records as part of a scheme to bury damaging stories that he feared could hurt his 2016 campaign, particularly as Trump’s reputation was suffering at the time from comments he had made about women.

The allegations focus on payoffs to two women, porn actor Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said they had extramarital sexual encounters with Trump years earlier, as well as to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged Trump had out of wedlock. Trump says none of these supposed sexual encounters occurred.

Former President Donald Trump arrives for a press conference at Manhattan criminal 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.  (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 and arranged for the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid to pay McDougal $150,000 in a journalistically dubious practice known as “catch-and-kill” in which a publication pays for exclusive rights to someone’s story with no intention of publishing it, either as a favor to a celebrity subject or to gain leverage over the person.

Prosecutors say Trump’s company reimbursed Cohen and paid him bonuses and extra payments, all of which were falsely logged in Trump Organization records as legal expenses. Cohen has separately pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance law in connection with the payments.

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WHAT ARE THE CHARGES?

Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. The charge carries up to four years in prison, though whether he will spend time behind bars if convicted would ultimately be up to the judge.

The counts are linked to a series of checks written to Cohen to reimburse him for his role in paying off Daniels. Those payments, made over 12 months, were recorded as legal expenses in various internal company records.

To win on the felony charge, prosecutors must show that Trump not only falsified or caused business records to be entered falsely — which would be a misdemeanor — but that he did so with intent to commit or conceal a second crime. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has said that Trump was trying to conceal violations of federal campaign finance laws — an unusual legal strategy some experts argue could backfire.

HOW WILL JURY SELECTION WORK?

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The process to choose 12 jurors, plus six alternates, will begin with Judge Juan M. Merchan bringing scores of people into his courtroom to begin weeding out people for potential biases or other reasons they cannot serve. The judge has said he will excuse anyone who indicates by a show of hands that they can’t serve or can’t be fair and impartial before calling groups of those who remain into the jury box to answer 42 questions. Potential jurors will be known only by number, as the judge has ordered their names to be kept secret from everyone except prosecutors, Trump and their legal teams.

Among the questions potential jurors will be asked: Whether they follow the former president on social media, have ever worked for a Trump organization and have ever attended a Trump rally — or anti-Trump organizations or rallies and whether potential jurors are supporters or followers of far-right groups, such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, whose members were among the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, or of the far-left-leaning collective known as antifa, which resists fascists and neo-Nazis, especially at demonstrations.

WHO’S EXPECTED TO TESTIFY?

Cohen, a Trump loyalist turned critic, is expected to be a key prosecution witness, as he was the one who orchestrated the payoffs. Before testifying in front of the grand jury that brought the indictment last year, Cohen said his goal was “to tell the truth” and insisted he is not seeking revenge but said Trump “needs to be held accountable for his dirty deeds.” Cohen served prison time after pleading guilty in 2018 to federal charges, including campaign finance violations, for arranging the payouts to Daniels and McDougal.

Other expected witnesses include Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Daniels alleges that she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 that she didn’t want, but didn’t say no to. Trump says it never happened.

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WHAT WILL TRUMP’S DEFENSE BE?

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has slammed the case as an effort to hurt his 2024 presidential campaign. Trump has acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for the payment and that it was designed to stop Daniels from going public about the alleged encounter. But Trump said in 2018 it had nothing to do with the campaign.

Trump’s lawyers will likely attack the case by trying to undermine the credibility of prosecution witnesses like Cohen and Daniels. Trump has described the two as liars, testing the limits of a gag order that the judge imposed. It seeks to curtail the president’s inflammatory rhetoric about the case. Trump’s lawyers are expected to paint Cohen as a con man and point to his conviction on multiple federal crimes as well as his disbarment to try to persuade jurors that he can’t be believed.

Trump recently posted on social media a picture of a 2018 written statement from Daniels, in which she denied they had a sexual relationship. Not long after, Daniels recanted the statement and said that a sexual encounter had occurred. She said her denials were due to a non-disclosure agreement and that she signed the statement because the parties involved “made it sound like I had no choice.”

WHAT ABOUT TRUMP’S OTHER CASES?

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Trump’s three other criminal cases have gotten bogged down in legal fights and appeals, which may mean jurors won’t hear about them before the November election.

The 2020 election interference case brought by special counsel Jack Smith remains on hold while Trump pursues his claim that he is immune from prosecution for actions he took while in the White House. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the matter in late April.

The other case brought by Smith accuses Trump of illegally retaining classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The trial had been scheduled to begin in May, but the judge heard arguments last month to set a new trial date and has yet to do so.

No trial date has been set in the Georgia case accusing Trump and his allies of conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state. Prosecutors have suggested a trial date of August, but defense attorneys are now urging an appeals court to consider whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis should be disqualified from the prosecution over a romantic relationship she had with a former top prosecutor who recently withdrew from the case.

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Trump has pleaded not guilty in all three cases and says he did nothing wrong.

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Biden honors late son Beau in somber Memorial Day message: ‘The hurt is still real’

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Biden honors late son Beau in somber Memorial Day message: ‘The hurt is still real’

President Biden on Monday invoked the memory of his late son, Beau Biden, while addressing an audience at Arlington National Cemetery for a Memorial Day ceremony. 

Sharing the pain of those whose family members have died in service, Biden noted this week marks nine years since he lost his son Beau, who served in Iraq and later died from brain cancer that the president attributes to his time stationed near toxic burn pits. 

Still, the president was careful to draw a distinction between the loss of his son and those who lost loved ones on the battlefield. 

President Joe Biden delivers the Memorial Day Address at the 156th National Memorial Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday, May 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

“Our losses are not the same. He didn’t perish on the battlefield. He was a cancer victim from a consequence of being in the army in Iraq for a year next to a burn pit. A major of the U.S. National Army, National Guard, living and working, like too many, besides that toxic burn pit,” Biden said. 

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The president told the audience: “As it is for so many of you, the pain of his loss is with me every day as it is with you. Still sharp. Still clear. But so is the pride I feel in this service, as if I can still hear him saying, ‘It’s my duty, dad. It’s my duty. That was the code of my son. Live by the creed. All of you live by the creed.” 

REPS. ILHAN OMAR, CORI BUSH MIX UP MEMORIAL DAY WITH VETERANS DAY IN SINCE-DELETED POSTS ON X

A major in the Delaware Army National Guard, Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015 at the Walter Reed military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.  

Reactions to Biden’s speech on X were mixed. One user described his speech as a “heart-wrenching display of empathy and understanding.” Others accused the president of making this “all about himself again.” 

Biden has on numerous occasions claimed that his son died on the battlefield in Iraq, including while speaking to Marines stationed in Japan, and during a 2022 speech in Colorado. 

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President Joe Biden, left, joined by, from left, Vice President Kamala Harris, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army Major Gen. Trevor Bradenkamp, pause during an Armed Forces Full Honors Wreath Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Biden began the day hosting a breakfast at the White House for administration officials, military leaders, veterans, and Gold Star family members. Joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Biden placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before the ceremony began. 

Biden touted the VA’s achievements last year for having delivered “more benefits and processed more claims than ever in our history.” 

He credited the PACT Act, which grants automatic coverage for certain health conditions suffered by veterans exposed to toxic substances such as burn pits or Agent Orange.

 

“For too long after fighting for our nation, these veterans had to fight to get the right health care, to get the benefits they had earned, not anymore,” he said. 

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Is Zionism patriotism or racism? Big disagreements over a word in use for 125 years

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Is Zionism patriotism or racism? Big disagreements over a word in use for 125 years

In the many debates over language surrounding the war in Gaza, few words are as controversial as “Zionism.”

Its original, most basic definition is Jewish nationalism.

For many, that equates to the right of the Jewish people to have their own state and self-determination in an ancestral homeland after centuries of oppression and ostracism in much of the world. They view anti-Zionism as a fig leaf for bigotry and antisemitism.

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For others, Zionism is a form of modern-day colonialism or racist manifest destiny — the attempt to justify the seizure of contested land in the name of God.

Here’s a review of the history of the word and how competing definitions are inflaming the debate over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

Where did the term come from?

The term “Zionism” first came into use in the late 1800s. It built upon “Zion,” a biblical term for Israel and Jerusalem, and the name of a site in Jerusalem where the temple most historically revered in Judaism was constructed millennia ago.

Its use was championed by a Jewish Austro-Hungarian journalist, Theodor Herzl, at the turn of the 19th century. He made it the label of a movement to send European Jews to an area eventually known as British Mandate Palestine so they could begin forming a Jewish homeland.

Outraged by what he considered the dangerous and prejudicial treatment of fellow Jews in Vienna in the late 19th century, Herzl, trained as a lawyer and a prolific writer, established the Zionist Organization, which explored the mission of creating a Jewish state. The organization eventually had branches in several European cities and attempted to lobby the mostly royal rulers of the day to make the dream of statehood come true.

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“Perhaps our ambitious young men, to whom every road of advancement is now closed, and for whom the Jewish state throws open a bright prospect of freedom, happiness, and honor, perhaps they will see to it that this idea is spread,” Herzl wrote in a pamphlet called “Der Judenstaat” (the Jewish State), which outlined his vision and led to his Zionist movement. It was published in 1896.

Considered the father of political Zionism, Herzl did not live to see a Jewish state. He died of heart disease in 1904.

Did Zionism always envision statehood for Jews in what is now Israel?

In the hearts of most early-day Zionists like Herzl, the ideal was to create their Jewish state in the land between what is now Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. Yet there were other ideas.

In 1903, British colonial rulers in Africa floated the so-called Uganda plan, which would have offered a section of the East Africa Protectorate as a homeland for Jews. (The land would eventually become part of modern-day Kenya.) Some of Herzl’s followers were willing to consider this, but a visit to survey the land found it to be inhospitable.

The Soviet Union proposed a Soviet Jewish Republic in Crimea, Ukraine; Italian fascists proposed a settlement in Italian East Africa. The Nazis at one point proposed shipping Jews to Madagascar. All of those plans were rooted more in ridding the continent of Jews than in giving them a homeland.

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In 1947, after World War II, the United Nations General Assembly officially partitioned British Mandate Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab one; the latter was never established. Arab powers in the region rejected the decision and not long after were at war with the new state of Israel.

How did the concept of anti-Zionism evolve in Soviet Russia?

In the years after Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, many Russian Jews supported and participated in the country that became known as the Soviet Union. Initially, the Soviet Union was favorable to Zionism and the creation of an Israeli state.

But strains of anti-Jewish hatred that had long raged in Imperial Russia and led to waves of pogroms in the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as discriminatory residency and employment laws from Moscow to St. Petersburg, continued to permeate sectors of Soviet society.

As the years went on, and it became clear after World War II that the emerging Israel was going to hitch its wagon to the United States and the West, anti-Zionism became a more formal policy in the Soviet Union.

(The U.S. under President Truman was the first major power to recognize Israel, in 1948; Russia did the same, but Stalin reversed the decision within a year.)

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Russia was home to tens of thousands of Jews, and for decades Soviet authorities refused to permit them to emigrate to Israel.

What was ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’?

One of the most notorious pieces of writing aimed at spreading hate and fear of Jews, “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” was published in Russia in the early 1900s.

It was a fake document that purported to prove that Jews were a cabal sneakily trying to control the world through financial institutions, media and other centers of power. Though the text has been soundly and repeatedly discredited, copies still exist, and some of its portrayals of Jews remain frequent antisemitic tropes today.

What did Zionism come to mean for Jewish people — then and now?

Zionism to many Jewish people means, essentially, patriotism: a political ideology rooted in the establishment — and, later, promotion — of a refuge for Jews who throughout history had to escape pogroms, then a Holocaust aimed at wiping them out.

The Anti-Defamation League defines the concept this way: “Zionism is the movement for the self-determination and statehood for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland, the land of Israel. The vast majority of Jews around the world feel a connection or kinship with Israel, whether or not they explicitly identify as Zionists, and regardless of their opinions on the policies of the Israeli government.”

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There is not consensus, however, among Jews today over the precise definition of Zionism.

For many, it underpins Israel’s right to exist. For the more extreme, such as settlers occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem land claimed by Palestinians, it is used to justify Jewish control of all the land, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

How do others view Zionism?

Over time, the definition and use of the word evolved and took on negative tones among critics of Israel. The U.N. formally declared Zionism a form of racism in a 1975 resolution, which it revoked 16 years later.

To Palestinians displaced by an emerging Israel, Zionism came to symbolize racism and exclusion from what they viewed as their homeland.

Is being anti-Zionist antisemitic?

On this question, there is abundant disagreement.

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Many critics of Israel or Israeli government policy say opposing the expansion of the country’s control over land claimed by Palestinians is not an anti-Jewish or antisemitic position but one of fairness.

Yet many Jews would say denying their right to an unfettered homeland is indeed antisemitic. They say it is clear that the term “anti-Zionist” is being embraced by some anti-Israel demonstrators at U.S. college campuses as a politically correct cover for antisemitic intent.

How has the term been used at campus protests?

At hundreds of pro-Palestinian protests on university campuses in recent weeks, the terms “Zionism” or “Zionist” have been hurled disparagingly against Jewish students and pro-Israel demonstrators.

At UCLA this month, demonstrators stopped Jewish students at checkpoints and demanded menacingly: “Are you a Zionist?” Some said protesters of any faith were welcome but not “Zionists”; one told The Times the word refers to those who adhere to “a very violent, genocidal political ideology that is actively endangering people in Gaza.”

A group of Jewish students at Columbia University — where demonstrations were intense and led to police being called onto the Manhattan campus to break up pro-Palestinian encampments — wrote an open letter this month expressing dismay at the way the term was being bandied about.

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“We proudly believe in the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in our historic homeland as a fundamental tenet of our Jewish identity,” the letter, signed by several hundred students, stated. “Contrary to what many have tried to sell you — no, Judaism cannot be separated from Israel. Zionism is, simply put, the manifestation of that belief.

“We are proud to be Jews, and we are proud to be Zionists,” the students wrote.

In many cases, it seems that the competing definitions have made use of such a misunderstood word problematic.

Ned Lazarus, an international affairs professor at George Washington University in the nation’s capital, said “Zionism” is now used as a litmus test by both sides with an array of sometimes contradictory criteria and components, erupting into a war of narratives and becoming weaponized.

“It should be a question to open a conversation,” Lazarus said, “not shut it down.”

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Trump makes endorsement in race to unseat top Democratic senator

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Trump makes endorsement in race to unseat top Democratic senator

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Former President Donald Trump weighed in with his important endorsement in the crowded Virginia Republican Senate race, giving the nod to retired Navy Capt. Hung Cao.

“A Combat Veteran and Highly Decorated Special Operations Officer, Hung Cao will be a tireless fighter to stop inflation, grow our Economy, secure our Border, strong support our incredible Military/Vets, and defend our always under siege Second Amendment,” Trump said on own social media platform, Truth Social, on Sunday. “Hung Cao has my Complete and Total Endorsement.”

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Cao is one of five Republicans vying to take out incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., in Virginia, a solidly Democratic state that elected Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin in 2021.

TRUMP MAKES MAJOR ENDORSEMENT IN CRUCIAL SENATE RACE IN KEY BATTLEGROUND STATE

Former President Donald Trump holds a rally in the historical Democratic district of the South Bronx on May 23, 2024 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Navy veteran’s most formidable opposition in the race is likely Club for Growth Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Parkinson, according to a report from the Washington Post, which noted the former adviser to Florida Gov. and former Trump primary rival Ron DeSantis has raised the second most money among GOP contenders so far.

Rounding out the field of Republicans is attorney and author Jonathan Emord, lawyer Chuck Smith and business owner Eddie Garcia.

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Cao, who in 2022 ran an unsuccessful campaign in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, has far outpaced his rivals in fundraising so far, bringing over $2 million, more than double the $841,000 raised by Parkinson.

Hung Cao on. campaign trail

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., and Hung Cao, greet voters and supporters on midterm Election Day at the Round Hill Elementary School Precinct on Tuesday, Nov. 08, 2022 in Round Hill, VA. (Jabin Botsford/Washington Post via Getty Images)

FIRST ON FOX: MCCORMICK SHOWCASES MAJOR FUNDRAISING HAUL IN KEY SENATE SHOWDOWN

Despite Cao’s impressive fundraising haul, the Republican challenger stands far behind the incumbent Kaine, who has raised $13 million since 2019. Kaine is also running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Complicating matters for Cao are significant political headwinds, with the Cook Political Report rating the seat a “Solid D,” signaling strength for the former Hillary Clinton running mate. Virginia was also won handily by President Biden, who beat Trump by 10 points in the 2020 presidential race in Virginia.

Cao, who came to the United States as a Vietnamese refugee at the age of four, said he is “honored” to receive the support of the former president as he looks to fend off his GOP rivals.

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Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a Buckeye Values PAC Rally in Vandalia, Ohio, on March 16, 2024.

Former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a Buckeye Values PAC Rally in Vandalia, Ohio, on March 16, 2024.  (KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

“I’m honored to receive an endorsement from the 45th and 47th President of the United States Donald Trump!” Cao said in a statement on X.

Virginia is set to hold its Republican Senate primary on June 18.

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