Trump could avoid trial this year on 2020 election charges. Is the hush money

Former President Donald Trump faces serious charges in two separate cases over whether he attempted to subvert the Constitution by overturning the results of a fair election and illegally remain in power.

Yet it’s a New York case centered on payments to silence an adult film actress that might provide the only legal reckoning this year on whether he tried to undermine a pillar of American democracy.

Trump is charged in the so-called hush money case with trying to falsify business records, but it was hard to tell that as the trial opened Monday.

Lead prosecutor Matthew Colangelo wasted little time during opening statements tying the case to Trump’s campaigning during his first run for the presidency. He said the payments made to Stormy Daniels amounted to “a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election.”

Whether the jury accepts that connection will be pivotal for Trump’s fate. The presumptive nominee faces charges related to falsifying business records that would typically be misdemeanors unless the alleged act could be tied to another crime. Prosecutors were able to charge them as felonies because they allege that the false records were part of an effort to cover up state and federal election law violations — though that’s still not the type of direct election interference that Trump is charged with elsewhere.

Trump himself has referred to the New York trial and the three other criminal cases against him as a form of election interference, suggesting without evidence that they’re part of a Democratic plan to undermine his campaign to return to the White House.

“I’m here instead of being able to be in Pennsylvania and Georgia and lots of other places campaigning, and it’s very unfair,” he told reporters before Monday’s court session.

While the charges are felonies, the New York case is seen as the least consequential against the former president. In the two election cases, Trump is accused of more direct involvement in trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

He faces a four-count federal indictment in Washington, D.C., in connection with his actions in the run-up to the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters on Jan. 6, 2021. He and others were charged in Georgia with violating the state’s anti-racketeering law by scheming to illegally overturn his 2020 loss to Joe Biden. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him in those cases and a fourth charging him with mishandling classified documents.

All the other cases are tied up in appeals that are expected to delay any trials until after the November election. If that happens, the New York case will stand as the only legal test during the campaign of whether Trump attempted to illegally manipulate an election — and the case isn’t even about the election results he tried to overthrow.

On Monday, Trump’s attorney quickly moved to undercut the idea that a case in which the charges center on record-keeping could seriously be considered an effort to illegally undermine an election.

“I have a spoiler alert: There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It’s called democracy,” said…

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