First salvos of Donald Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan

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First salvos of Donald Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan

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Hello and welcome to the US election countdown. Today we discuss:

  • Opening arguments in Trump’s hush money trial

  • What does it take to win Pennsylvania?

  • How much Trump spends on legal fees

Manhattan prosecutors launched their first salvo against Donald Trump yesterday, claiming he tried to “corrupt” the 2016 election by getting his team to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels, who threatened to go public with her affair allegations, to the tune of $130,000.

During his opening argument, Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo described the “catch and kill” plot allegedly orchestrated by Trump and his inner circle to “cover up his and others’ criminal conduct.” [free to read]. He added:

This was a planned, coordinated and long-term conspiracy. . . to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal spending. . . It was electoral fraud, pure and simple.

Trump’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, said the former president was “shrouded in innocence” and was simply trying to protect his family, his brand and his reputation. Blanche added that Trump had “nothing to do” with how the payment was arranged and was “not responsible” for how it was recorded.

“You’ll learn that companies do this all the time,” Blanche told jurors, adding, “There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election — that’s called democracy.” »

The jury also heard from the first witness, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. Prosecutors alleged that Pecker was involved in the scheme by purchasing exclusive rights to the anti-Trump articles and preventing their publication.

Trump, who has tried to downplay his rage by silently glowering, is frustrated that his legal obligations prevent him from participating in the election campaign. He said, however, that it was “very unfair” to be at the courthouse “instead of being able to be in Pennsylvania, Georgia and many other places campaigning.”

While Trump appeared to be dozing off last week during a tedious jury selection process, Joe Biden was in the Keystone State. And today, the president will visit Trump’s adopted state of Florida, a week before his new six-week abortion ban takes effect.

Campaign extracts: the latest election headlines

  • Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Mike Johnson finally pushed through new aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan that Biden plans to sign into law, after Trump and his hardline supporters in Congress prevented its adoption.

  • Trump is courting black and Latino voters, and some residents of New York’s historic Harlem neighborhood are listening to him. [Free to read]

  • With his criminal trial, Trump’s complicated relationship with law enforcement is on display. (NYT)

  • Trump is getting angrier and more isolated on social media. (Washington Post)

In the wings

Biden and Trump are neck and neck in Pennsylvania, which is arguably the most important swing state in this election due to its high electoral vote count. To stay in the White House, Biden will likely have to hold on to the state.

You see a snapshot of an interactive chart. This is probably because you are offline or JavaScript is disabled in your browser.

And Trump won’t let Biden win Pennsylvania without a fight. He is tailoring his message to the state’s blue-collar workers by attacking the president’s energy policy.

Trump played his biggest hits at recent rallies in Pennsylvania – immigration, his legal problems and inflation – but he received his loudest cheers when he told the crowd he would get rid of Biden’s ban on new natural gas exports, according to the FT’s Jamie Smyth. . The shale gas industry is a major employer in Pennsylvania, producing one-fifth of the nation’s natural gas.

Biden loves to present himself as America’s most pro-union president and tell blue-collar voters that he cares more about them than Trump. However, Democrats are clearly having difficulty reaching these types of voters in Pennsylvania.

As the FT’s Derek Brower, who was at Trump’s rally in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, told us last week:

If James Carville, the Democratic strategist, was right when he described Pennsylvania as “Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, with Alabama in between,” this was a crowd from the in-between: the rural poor , fascinated by a New York billionaire and his promises of more tax cuts.

Data points

Trump’s legal fees have cost donors $76 million, accounting for more than a quarter of all the money the former president has raised since January 2023.

You see a snapshot of an interactive chart. This is probably because you are offline or JavaScript is disabled in your browser.

As his legal troubles deplete his campaign coffers, Biden’s political groups have raised far more than Trump — $413 million to Republicans’ $326 million — according to the latest federal campaign finance disclosures. [free to read]. Biden’s groups also have $188 million in cash, compared to $122 million held by their Trump counterparts, meaning the president’s cash advantage is greater than the Republicans’ legal costs.

You see a snapshot of an interactive chart. This is probably because you are offline or JavaScript is disabled in your browser.

Trevor Traina, a Trump donor who was the former president’s US ambassador to Austria, told the FT that the next fundraising report would “tell a very different story”. He also claimed that Trump’s shrinking base of small donors was struggling with inflation.

The Democratic Party’s fundraising committees are also in better shape than those of the Republican Party, with about $157 million in cash versus $114 million, respectively.

You see a snapshot of an interactive chart. This is probably because you are offline or JavaScript is disabled in your browser.

A Biden campaign spokesperson said:

Donald Trump simply cannot keep up with Joe Biden: he is too lazy to campaign, too toxic to generate enthusiasm or support from the base, and too obsessed with his own vengeance and personal vendetta to expand his coalition. . . Open your eyes, Donald, the campaign has begun.

Perspectives

  • Constanze Stelzenmüller stressed that the bipartisanship shown this weekend by US lawmakers regarding aid to Ukraine was an anomaly.

  • In the Swamp Notes newsletter, Peter Spiegel calls the US campaign finance system “one of the most corrupting elements of a modern democracy in the world.” [Available for Premium subscribers]

  • Trump’s fears about the potential consequences of a criminal conviction are very real, writes David Axelrod. (Atlantic)

  • Biden’s Middle East stunts would make Henry Kissinger blush as the president tries to restrain both Israel and Iran, Edward Luce says.

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