Stony-faced Trump, with his eyes narrow, leans back in his chair as his lawyers battle over evidence that could be VERY embarrassing: How the ex-president responded to explosive first morning of the hush-money trial

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Donald Trump’s first criminal trial started in New York on Monday morning 
  • He sat stony-faced throughout with his arms folded as lawyers did battle 
  • He pursed his lips as prosecutors pushed to include embarrassing evidence 

The Trump campaign arrived in New York Supreme Criminal Court on Monday morning.

Donald Trump delivered remarks in the court hallway, while one his most loyal hucksters worked the crowd outside and c-list talking heads took their seats in an overflow room to watch proceedings.

This was what day one in the first of Trump’s criminal trials looked like.

The history books will record that the first ever trial of a former commander-in-chief, a momentous day for the nation and the world, opened with discussion of whether the evidence could include unproven allegations of sexual assault against him (no, said Judge Juan Merchan) or headlines that 2016 rival Ted Cruz’s father was somehow involved in the assassination of JFK (yes, ruled the judge).

Through it all, in courtroom 1530 in downtown New York, the defendant made his displeasure clear. 

Donald Trump pursed his lips, folded his arms and made his displeasure clear during the first morning of his first criminal trial on Monday in New York

Trump arrives to attend the first day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City

Trump arrives to attend the first day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City

Donald Trump sat stony faced, eyes narrowed and lips pursed as his lawyers did battle with prosecutors over how many salacious (and untrue) National Enquirer headlines could be shown to jurors and whether they could hear him say ‘grab them by their p*****s’ or whether they could only read transcripts of the famous Access Hollywood tape.

The Manhattan district attorney’s team sat shoulder to shoulder at their desk. 

In contrast, Trump dominated the space among his legal team. He leaned back in his chair or shifted forward to look at a video screen, like a silverback gorilla reminding the courtroom of who was boss.

When a decision went against him—like when Judge Juan Merchan ruled he would not be recusing himself—he briefly showed his frustration, giving a furious little nod.

But at other times he did his impression of a legal scholar: Brow furrowed, head tilted as if he were considering the judge’s ruling on admitting Molineux evidence.

On their face the charges are prosaic: 34 counts of fiddling business records. 

But beneath it, prosecutors allege, was a plot to pay off two women including a porn star, Stormy Daniels, and hide their affair from voters in the run up to the 2016 election.  

The charges may be the least serious of the 88 he faces in four different criminal cases—including accusations he endangered national security by keeping secret intelligence files or trying to overturn the 2020 election—but they could turn out to be the most consequential.

The New York case looks likely to be the only completed ahead of November’s election. 

And it will provide a ream of attack lines for President Joe Biden’s campaign and doubts for swing voters.

Anti-Trump protesters gathered outside the courthouse on Monday morning

Anti-Trump protesters gathered outside the courthouse on Monday morning

Trump accuses prosecutors of 'political persecution' in the hallway outside courtroom

Trump accuses prosecutors of ‘political persecution’ in the hallway outside courtroom

Trump with his legal team, from left to right: Todd Blanche, Emil Bove and Susan Necheles

Trump with his legal team, from left to right: Todd Blanche, Emil Bove and Susan Necheles

Jury selection was due to begin Monday, but first the two legal teams had to work through a string of arguments about what evidence was and was not admissible. 

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked to introduce evidence about the Trump 2016 campaign’s coordination with The National Enquirer.  

Stories included hit pieces on his 2016 rivals, including that Sen. Marco Rubio was addicted to drugs and was mired in a sex scandal.

He said they were part of a deal struck at Trump Tower between the campaign and National Enquire’s owner American Media Inc to hide damaging stories in a practise known as ‘catch and kill.’

‘This evidence will do nothing but confuse the jury about the actual crime charged,’ said Todd Blanche for the defense, and he said the stories had been cherry picked.

But he also said there was nothing ‘illegal’ or ‘improper’ about a publisher and a campaign meeting to discuss stories.

Merchan ruled that prosecutors would be allowed to introduce them. 

As ever, Trump had to use his appearance to sow doubt on the proceedings as a form of election interference and to do what he could to keep his campaign running.

Journalists are monitoring proceedings by videolink, with split screen views of the prosecution (bottom left), Trump team (bottom right) and Judge Juan Merchan top

Journalists are monitoring proceedings by videolink, with split screen views of the prosecution (bottom left), Trump team (bottom right) and Judge Juan Merchan top

Outside court a maze of barricades kept protesters away from Trump's criminal trial

Outside court a maze of barricades kept protesters away from Trump’s criminal trial

A Trump impersonator talks to far right podcast host and Trump ally Laura Loomer

A Trump impersonator talks to far right podcast host and Trump ally Laura Loomer

‘This is an assault on America,’ he told reporters in the corridor outside courtroom 1530. 

‘Nothing like this has ever happened before–there’s never been anything like it. 

‘Every legal scholar says this is nonsense, it should never have been brought. It doesn’t deserve anything like this. There is no case.’

His appearance brought out a familiar crop of people who have become famous on his coattails (on both sides.) 

George Conway, who split from Trump pollster Kellyanne Conway after he became increasingly vocal in his opposition to the then president, sat with journalists watching the hearing unfold in court room 1523, an overflow room. 

Outside his loyal ally Laura Loomer, known for promoting conspiracy theories, worked a crowd of Trump supporters, pausing occasionally for media hits.

A maze of barricades directed pedestrians away from Trump’s criminal trial.

The case revolves around payments allegedly made to Stormy Daniels to hide an affair

The case revolves around payments allegedly made to Stormy Daniels to hide an affair

Journalists arrived early for seats in an overflow room to follow proceedings

Journalists arrived early for seats in an overflow room to follow proceedings

Trump waved as he left Trump Tower on Monday morning for a downtown courthouse

Trump waved as he left Trump Tower on Monday morning for a downtown courthouse

Harried security guards directed journalists one way and then another.

Protesters held up signs reading ‘Loser’ and ‘Convict Trump Already.’

Reporters were screened twice with magnetometers. Bags checked and then searched again.

On the 15th floor, a makeshift pen had been built for a handful of photographers and reporters to document the former president’s arrival in courtroom 1530.

Trump cut a defiant figure as he left his Trump Tower home at about 8:30am, waving to onlookers.

And he kept up a steady stream of social media posts and fundraising emails in the 24 hours before his appearance, accusing his opponents of using the courts to keep him off the campaign trail.

‘The radical left Democrats are already cheating on the 2024 presidential election by bringing, or helping to bring, all of these bogus lawsuits against me, thereby forcing me to sit in courthouses, and spend money that could be used for campaigning, instead of being out in the field knocking Crooked Joe Biden, the worst president in the history of the United States,’ he posted on his Truth Social website. 

‘Election Interference!’

ᴀʀᴛɪᴄʟᴇ ꜱᴏᴜʀᴄᴇ

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