Former President Trump railed against the historic trial in Manhattan criminal court Monday, asking why the District Attorney’s Office picked up the case after other law enforcement bodies did not pursue charges. 

“If this were such a great case, why didn’t the Southern District bring it? Who looked at it and turned it down. Why didn’t numerous other agencies and law enforcement groups look at it? Because it was shown to everybody. And very importantly, why didn’t the Federal Elections do anything about it? Because this is federal, it’s not state,” he said. 

“It’s not state… It’s never happened before, I believe. Never happened before… where the state tries to insert itself into federal elections. Never. Nobody’s ever seen it. But, you know, Federal Elections took a total pass on it.” 

The Justice Department in 2019 “effectively concluded” its investigation into Trump’s payments. And in 2021, the Federal Elections Commission, the agency dedicated to enforcing campaign finance laws, announced that it had dropped a case looking into whether Trump had violated election laws for the payment to former pornographic actor Stormy Daniels. 

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg picked up the case last year, announcing Trump’s indictment in April 2023. 

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Trump’s trial in a Manhattan courtroom began in earnest Monday, after jury selection last week, and heard its first witness, former American Media Inc. CEO David Pecker. 

Pecker was allegedly a key figure to a “catch and kill” scheme ahead of the 2016 election. “Catch-and-kill” schemes are understood as tactics used by media and publishing companies to buy the rights of a person’s story, but do not publish the materials. 

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The trial focuses on a $130,000 payment made by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to Daniels to allegedly quiet her claims of an alleged extramarital affair she had with Trump in the early 2000s. Daniels reportedly spoke to the National Enquirer, which is owned by American Media Inc., on her claims, with Pecker allegedly contacting Cohen to “purchase” Daniels’ silence on the alleged affair. 

Trump has repeatedly denied an affair with Daniels and pleaded not guilty to all counts. 

“During the election, TRUMP and others employed a ‘catch and kill’ scheme to identify, purchase, and bury negative information about him and boost his electoral prospects,” Bragg alleged last year. “TRUMP then went to great lengths to hide this conduct, causing dozens of false entries in business records to conceal criminal activity, including attempts to violate state and federal election laws.”

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Trump said Monday that payments to Cohen were above board. 

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“It’s a case as to bookkeeping which is a very minor thing in terms of the law, in terms of all the violent crime,” Trump said Monday afternoon. “This is a case in which you pay a lawyer, and they call it a legal expense in the books.”

“I got indicted for that,” he added. 

Trump briefly delivered public comments earlier Monday, where he slammed the case as a “Biden” trial motivated “for the purposes of hurting the opponent of the worst president in the history of our country.” 

“I just want to say before we begin – these are all Biden trials,” Trump said before opening statements were delivered Monday. “This is done as election interference. Everybody knows it.” 

“I’m here instead of being able to be in Pennsylvania and Georgia and lots of other places campaigning, and it’s very unfair. Fortunately, the poll numbers are very good,” Trump continued. “They’ve been going up because people understand what’s going on.”