Here’s What You Need to Know

donald trump trial walk up

Former President Donald Trump is expected to appear in New York County Supreme Court on Monday in the nation’s first criminal trial of a sitting or former president. Trump pleaded not guilty to a 34-count felony indictment last year that alleged the former president falsified business records in New York to hide damaging information in the weeks preceding the 2016 presidential election. 

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought forth the charges, alleging Trump conspired to illegally influence the election by attempting to hide hush money payments made to two women who claimed they had sexual encounters with him. While Trump has called the indictment “political persecution,” jury selection will begin on Monday, over a year after the charges were first brought against him. 

The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks. The decision could have major ramifications for the 2024 presidential election, as polls have consistently demonstrated that a criminal conviction could torpedo Trump’s chances.

Here’s everything you need to know about the historic trial.

What the case is about:

The New York criminal case centers on the reporting of a $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, and a $150,000 payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the weeks preceding the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen pled guilty in August 2018 to campaign finance violations and other charges. He implicated the former president, saying Trump directed him to arrange the hush money payments to ward off damage in his run for the White House. 

Bragg says Cohen’s reimbursements were falsely reported in internal company records as legal fees when in actuality, the money was a campaign expense to keep Daniels and McDougal quiet about their alleged affairs. 

Falsifying business records is usually a misdemeanor under New York law but it can become a class E felony — New York State’s lowest felony count — when there is an “intent to defraud” and prosecutors can prove the defendant had an intent to “commit another crime or to aid or conceal” another crime. 

Bragg alleges the payments represent New York election law violations, which makes it a crime to conspire to promote a candidate through “unlawful means.” Bragg also claims the hush money payments violated federal election laws by exceeding campaign contribution limits and additionally violated state tax laws. 

Trump’s legal team has denied these claims, saying Trump would have made the payments regardless of whether he was running for president. Trump argues the prosecution is politically motivated and designed to hurt his 2024 White House bid. His legal team’s long-standing strategy of delay, deny, and deflect has been challenged in this case given that Cohen has already pled guilty to violating federal campaign finance and federal and state tax laws for the same payments, giving prosecutors a clean line of evidence to follow. 

Last week, an appellate judge rejected Trump’s 11th-hour request to delay the trial. Trump’s lawyers claim the judge presiding over the case, Judge Juan Merchan, is biased because of his daughter’s job at a Democratic-aligned consulting firm, and have sought the judge’s recusal. His lawyers are pushing for a change of venue and to lift a gag order that prevents Trump from publicly commenting on the judge’s and Bragg’s families, and also bars him from making comments about witnesses, prosecutors, court staff, and jurors. 

Merchan has cited a state ethics panel review proving he was not ethically compromised, a review he requested last year after Trump’s legal team had originally demanded his recusal. He also cited Trump’s history of “threatening, inflammatory, denigrating” remarks of people involved in his legal cases. Several of Trump’s attorneys and political aides are actively working to prevent Trump from engaging in courtroom theatrics when his political opponents take the witness stand, Rolling Stone reported last month.

Trump has been testing the gag order in the days approaching the trial. In a series of posts over the weekend, the former president commented on both Cohen and Mark Pomerantz, a lawyer who wrote the book “People Vs. Donald Trump” and a former prosecutor in the Manhattan DA’s office. Both are expected witnesses in the upcoming trial.

“Has Mark POMERANTZ been prosecuted for his terrible acts in and out of the D.A.’s Office. Has disgraced attorney and felon Michael Cohen been prosecuted for LYING? Only TRUMP people get prosecuted by this Judge and these thugs!” Trump posted. 

Trump separately posted a photo of a document signed by Stormy Daniels denying she had an affair with him. In a 2018 interview with Anderson Cooper, Daniels said she “felt intimidated and… honestly bullied” by her lawyers into signing the document.

For Bragg to prosecute the case, he will need to prove the alleged crimes occurred in his jurisdiction. If the DA can’t prove that, the court can reject the case and ask Bragg to pursue more narrow charges. The trial is set to start on Monday with jury selection.

Trump’s other legal woes:

The hush money trial is the first of four current criminal cases involving Trump. In Georgia, Trump was indicted in August 2023 of racketeering, conspiracy and other charges following a two-year investigation by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis into Trump’s and 18 others’ alleged efforts to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 win. 

Special Counsel Jack Smith is investigating Trump over two separate cases: his handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, and his actions leading up to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump was indicted on 40 felony counts in the federal documents case and on four charges in the federal election interference case.

The hush money case is the only criminal case expected to reach a verdict before the 2024 presidential election. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan had originally scheduled the federal election interference trial start date on March 4 but had granted Trump’s legal team’s request to push the start to after April 22, when SCOTUS will hear arguments over whether the former president has immunity for his alleged conduct committed while still in office. 

Trump is appealing the verdicts of two civil suits brought against him earlier this year. The former president posted a $91.6 million bond as he appeals a Jan. 26 verdict in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case. Trump also posted a $175 million bond as he appeals a Feb. 16 verdict in a civil fraud lawsuit that found Trump, his company, and executives, including his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr., overvalued his properties and inflated his net worth by billions of dollars on financial statements.

Jury selection and moving forward:

Trump’s legal team argues the former president is unable to get a fair trial in Manhattan, referencing a survey they commissioned of 2,000 New Yorkers showing Trump’s lack of favorability among city residents. “We’re here for this stay because there are restrictions in place that cannot operate in a constitutional way in a trial environment,” Trump lawyer Emil Bove argued last week before an appellate judge rejected the change of venue request.

Bragg’s office will need to find 12 jurors fit to impartially judge whether the former president has committed a crime. Questions for juror selection were published last week, ranging from where potential jurors get their news to whether they had been employed or volunteered for the Trump campaign. The jury questionnaire also asks if the prospective juror has ever attended a pro- or anti-Trump demonstration or if they follow any pro- or anti-Trump social media accounts.


One of the questions asks if the potential juror has been a supporter or belonged to any of the following “groups”: QAnon, Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, Three Percenters, Boogaloo Boys, or Antifa. The first five are right-wing movements or militant groups — here’s a breakdown on some of them — while Antifa is an anti-fascist and anti-racist political movement. People are also asked if they’ve read any books authored by Trump, Cohen, or Pomerantz.

The prosecution is seeking highly educated people who want to understand election law and are willing to sift through evidence. The defense is looking for those who will be sympathetic to the former president. Trump’s lawyers are once again expected to motion for a change of venue during jury selection, claiming Trump cannot have a fair and impartial trial in the Democratic stronghold county. Because of the highly publicized nature of the case, jury selection could take time as the judge will attempt to ensure that each juror can be fair and impartial.

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