The Trump Trial Isn’t About ‘Hush Money’

News & Politics

The trial of former President Donald Trump got underway on Monday and, as befitting all political trials, the defendant is being tried for something entirely different than what the indictment said he did wrong.


The prosecution will detail a series of meetings Trump held with his personal attorney Michael Cohen during which he gave the authorization for the $130,000 in “hush money” to porn actress Stormy Daniels. They will show how Trump falsified business records to try to hide that payment by claiming it was a “legal retainer.” That, the prosecutors will allege, is the real crime, not the hush money or the one-night stand itself.

But since this is a political trial, the wrongdoing the prosecutors will concentrate on has nothing to do with the money. The trial is about sex, and any claim to the contrary is bogus. The overriding theme by prosecutors, and the news angle covered by the media, will be Donald Trump’s sex life, and the raunchier the better.

Procedural matters took up most of the day during Monday’s proceedings. Among those details was a discussion with the judge about how much of Trump’s sexual past the jury needed to hear.

Washington Post:  

Prosecutors wanted to tell the jury that he also had an affair with Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, at a time when his wife, Melania Trump, was pregnant with his child.

Blanche argued that would poison the jury against his client, for something that was not a crime and has no bearing on the charges he is facing.

“The risk of unfair prejudice is through the roof,” Blanche said, “from salacious details about a completely different situation.”

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass argued that the details of the McDougal affair were important to show Trump’s state of mind and behavior when allegations of sexual impropriety surfaced against him.


The judge said the jury could learn about the McDougal affair, despite its extremely prejudicial nature.

It’s always something else. Trump’s “state of mind” is unknowable. But it’s part of the prosecution’s plan to set up the media and the public for the “big reveal”: Stormy Daniels’ testimony.

Daniels’ testimony will be embarrassing for Trump. It will no doubt be salacious. It will be deflating to his followers. But the prosecution will seek to get Daniels to describe the encounter in excruciating detail that may do more harm to Trump’s image than all the bric-a-brac a hateful media throws at the former president.


I suspect there’s another underrated source of Trump’s fear and rage: He knows Daniels will be taking the stand. Hers is a story that is likely to make him look bad, well beyond garden-variety adultery. The fact that he was an adulterer was probably the best-known aspect of his life going into the election. There’s a reason the “Access Hollywood” tape sent his team into overdrive, trying to pay Daniels to shut up. Trump and his minions are able to wave away many of the odious aspects of his personality with seeming ease, from his proud ignorance to his childish insults to his relentless efforts to cheat every system, including elections. But his predatory sexual behavior cannot be explained away by yelling “deep state” or claiming he was “just joking” or insisting that “all politicians do it.”


This will be the most anticipated political testimony since John Dean testified at the Watergate hearings. And it has nothing to do with the “hush money” or plans to conceal the Daniels payment as a “legal retainer.” Most legal experts say the “hush money” wasn’t illegal and that it was the act of trying to conceal those payments that led to criminal activity.

Daniels does not know about the alleged crime that led up to paying her off. She will be on the stand to embarrass Donald Trump. Whether that attempt succeeds depends on how jaded the American voter is about Donald Trump’s personal morals and his reputation as a womanizer.

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