Special coverage of an historic day with Heather Digby Parton of Salon, attorney Keith Barber of Daily Kos...
By Brad Friedman on 4/15/2024, 5:11pm PT  

After a number of quick news headline since our previous BradCast last week, it's on to the biggest story of the day: the first day of the first criminal trial of a former U.S. President. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

Of course, the nation has never seen anything like it. I might suggest we'd otherwise be unlikely to see anything like it again in our lifetimes, but for the fact that the trial on 34 felony counts against Donald J. Trump that began in New York on Monday is just the first of four criminal trials awaiting the disgraced former President and presumptive Republican Party nominee for the 2024 Presidential election.

Jury selection finally got underway late on Monday after a series of pretrial arguments in the indictment brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. It alleges that that Trump created a series of fraudulent business records with the intent to hide a $130,000 hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels just weeks prior to the 2016 Presidential election. The payment was made amid Trump's panic in the wake of the release of the Access Hollywood videotape in the closing days of the 2016 race, during which Trump is heard bragging about sexually assaulting women.

Then, while serving as President of the United States, Trump signed and sent monthly payments to his then personal attorney/fixer Michael Cohen to reimburse him for the payment to Daniels on Trump's behalf, as well as for several hundred thousand additional dollars for Cohen's efforts.

The payments were meant to prevent Daniels from discussing a sexual affair she says she had with Trump ten years earlier, while Trump's wife Melania was nursing their newborn son.

The payments, according to Federal Elections Commission (FEC) findings, violated federal campaign finance laws which, Bragg alleges, changes the charges for Trump's falsified business records from misdemeanors to felonies. Thirty-four of them, in fact, all in service of cheating to win the 2016 election. Bragg describes the scheme --- just as Trump would, had a Democratic candidate done anything even close to it --- as "election interference".

We're joined today for special coverage of the legal, political and cultural significance of this historic day by two longtime friends of the program: Award-winning columnist HEATHER DIGBY PARTON of Salon and her Hullaballoo blog, and former attorney and former lifelong Republican KEITH BARBER, who now covers legal and constitutional issues as "KeithDB" for the progressive Daily Kos website.

Both offer explanations of the alleged crimes themselves and their insights on the Prosecution's witness list, which includes, among many others, Cohen and Daniels as well as Playboy model Karen McDougal --- who is said to have carried out a year-long sexual dalliance with Trump during Melania's pregnancy --- and David Pecker, the head of the company which owned the National Enquirer in 2016. Pecker has since admitted to buying McDougal's story to make it go away --- a so-called "Catch and Kill" scheme --- on behalf of Trump, his longtime friend.

Barber details some of the complexities of the NY criminal case and how unusual it is for prosecutors to call some 6,000 potential jurors. Parton discusses the historic, political and cultural ramifications of this trial. Both offer thoughts on the likelihood that Trump ends up spending time in jail, either for the crimes themselves, which could result in a sentence of up to four years, or for violating the gag order placed on Trump by the trial judge, Justice Juan Merchan, after Trump has spent weeks attacking potential witnesses and the judge's family. Prosecutors charged today that Trump violated the gag order three times over this past weekend alone. A hearing on that matter will be held next Wednesday, April 24 Tuesday, April 23.

"It is a shocking, unprecedented moment to see an ex-President --- and current nominee for one of the major parties for President --- whining like a 5-year-old every five minutes about being politically persecuted because he committed the crime of paying hush money to an adult film actress, and in the process of doing that, violated New York state law," Parton argues. "And motivated at the time in order to win an election. What he keeps calling 'election interference' is actually true."

Barber notes that what Trump continues to complain about "a two-tiered system of justice", which somehow disadvantages HIM. That might be true, Barber suggests, "if Trump did not face the same justice that Michael Cohen did for being his co-conspirator in all of this, and really doing the same thing." Cohen served a year in federal prison after pleading guilty to participating in the criminal conspiracy "directed" by Trump the then-President. "This is an equalization of justice. Bringing this case to trial is saying, 'Look, the guy who Cohen helped is also going to be held accountable.' And I think it's a triumph for justice that that is going to be happening."

As you might guess, there is a lot to cover on this historic first day of Trump's first criminal trial. And, as shameful as it all is, we also find the time for more than a few laughs along the way during today's Special Coverage...


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