Donald Trump: Former US president told to behave or face jail on first day of criminal trial

Daniel Bates in New York
Daily Mail
3 Min Read
Former US president Donald Trump at Manhattan criminal court in New York on Monday.
Former US president Donald Trump at Manhattan criminal court in New York on Monday. Credit: Jabin Botsford/Bloomberg

Donald Trump has been warned by a judge to behave or risk being jailed as the former president dismissed his first criminal trial as “political persecution”.

Judge Juan Merchan said that if he disrupted proceedings then he could be kicked out of the court in New York or put in a cell.

Amid sparring over what evidence could be allowed, the judge said the jury could hear about Mr Trump’s alleged affair with former Playmate Karen McDougal.

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But the jury will not hear that it took place while his wife Melania was pregnant because it would be prejudicial.

The trial is the first time a former president has ever faced a criminal trial.

Speaking in the hallway outside the courtroom, a stern-faced Mr Trump said: “Nothing like this has ever happened before.

The court will hear evidence about former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal.
The court will hear evidence about former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal. Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Playboy

“This is political persecution; persecution like never before.

“It’s an assault on America. And that’s why I’m very proud to be here. It’s a country that’s run by an incompetent man who’s very much involved in this case.

“This is really an attack on a political opponent. That’s all it is.”

The stakes — and the security — are even higher as Mr Trump, 77, is the presumptive Republican nominee for November’s presidential election.

Mr Trump was charged in April last year and denies 34 counts of falsifying business records in order to “conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election”.

That information was that he allegedly had affairs with two women and paid them hush money to keep it quiet.

Donald Trump decried the trial as ‘persecution like never before’.
Donald Trump decried the trial as ‘persecution like never before’. Credit: Jabin Botsford/Bloomberg

The most well known is porn star Stormy Daniels, who Mr Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen paid $130,000 through a shell company days before the 2016 election to keep quiet about their affair.

Another woman is former Playboy Playmate Ms McDougal, who was paid $150,000 by the National Enquirer to keep her affair with Mr Trump between 2006 and 2007 private.

Before jury selection got under way, Judge Merchan addressed Mr Trump about his conduct during the trial.

He told the former president that he could lose his right to attend court if “you disrupt the proceedings in any way”.

If he did so he could be excluded or jailed, the judge said.

Failure to attend in court could mean a warrant would be issued for Mr Trump’s arrest, Judge Merchan said. Mr Trump nodded that he understood.

Donald Trump’s affair with Stormy Daniels will be back in the spotlight.
Donald Trump’s affair with Stormy Daniels will be back in the spotlight. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

Prosecutors requested that Mr Trump be fined $3000 for violating a gagging order banning him from posting online about the judge. Judge Merchan said he would rule later.

Addressing the court, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass sought permission to introduce the evidence about Ms McDougal.

He told the court: “We intend to elicit evidence Karen McDougal was a former Playboy model who claims to have had romantic and sexual relations with Mr Trump including while his wife Melania was pregnant with their child.”

Mr Steinglass said that they have “no intention of describing sexual acts or locales” where the affair happened.

Barron Trump, now 18, was born in March 2006.

Mr Trump’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, said that the evidence was just to “embarrass” him.

Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 in hush money.
Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 in hush money. Credit: Mary Altaffer/AP

But in a blow to Mr Trump, Judge Merchan said that the jury could hear a transcript of his infamous Access Hollywood tape in which he bragged about grabbing women by their private parts.

While Mr Trump could be jailed for four years for each of the 34 counts, he is likely to serve a few months in prison at the most if found guilty.

Mr Trump will have to be in court every day for the trial, which is expected to last six to eight weeks, meaning he will be away from the campaign trial.

The fate of Mr Trump’s other three criminal trials is uncertain and they have either been mired in controversy or face delays.

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