Donald Trump in court: What you need to know about the hush money trial

Donald Trump is the first ex-US president to go to trial for paying hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels. What to expect from the process? And will it have an impact on the presidential election? Questions and answers.

He fought tooth and nail, and his lawyers recently had to try three times in just one week to postpone the start of the trial – “in the eleventh hour”, as they say in English, at the very last minute. Vain. On Monday, April 15th, a former US president will appear in court for the first time in US history.

How did Donald Trump account for the hush money?

The reason for the historic trial is comparatively trivial, although spicy: the payment of hush money to the porn actress Stormy Daniels. Strictly speaking, in the Manhattan District Court, in Donald Trump's hometown of New York, it's not even about the payment itself, but about how it is recorded in his business records.

Even if the trial of the four pending charges is probably the timing and setting are already film-worthy. A lustful TV star who gets lost with a fun-loving sex worker on the sidelines of a golf tournament and wants to cover the affair with money years later. Also appearing in the hall: Stormy Daniels herself, Trump's and former lawyer and cleaner Michael Cohen and an ambitious senior prosecutor.
As one of the few German-language media outlets, stern is in the courtroom and will follow the proceedings live.

Read the most important questions and answers Hush money-Trial against Donald Trump:

What exactly is the ex-US President accused of?

In fact, the hush money trial against Donald Trump is about the question of whether the hush payment to the sex film actress and producer Stormy Daniels falls under campaign finance – and whether this type of operating expense was concealed in the books.

It is undisputed that Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's lawyer at the time, paid the equivalent of 120,000 euros in hush money to Stormy Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, before the 2016 presidential election. Trump admits that he reimbursed Cohen for the money, but denies that he wanted to use the money to silence his previous affair.

What relationship did Trump and Stormy Daniels have?

According to her, the two met in July 2006 at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada and ended up in bed. The one-night stand then developed into a “friendship plus” lasting several years. After it ended, Stephanie Clifford denied the relationship for a while, but in 2011 she told the gossip magazine “In Touch” the whole story. To this day, the ex-president denies having been intimate with Clifford.

How does the process work?

The trial begins by filling the jury and selecting alternate members. This can take a few days to weeks. The prosecution and defense will then begin the actual trial. How long it will take cannot yet be predicted, especially since Trump's lawyers are likely to use every opportunity to buy time. However, it is certain that a verdict will be made before the presidential election on November 5th.

Is Trump at risk of conviction and what would be the punishment?

The hush money payment itself is not illegal; the indictment relates to 34 cases in which it is said to have been disguised in business documents. According to the public prosecutor's office, “harmful” information was kept secret from the electorate.

Each of the charges is punishable by up to four years in prison – which would add up to 136 years in the worst case scenario.

Legal experts believe that the indictment is sound in terms of content and form, but they do not believe that the ex-president will ultimately end up behind bars. Because it would be his first criminal conviction, in such cases potential prison sentences are usually suspended.

How does the trial affect Trump's political standing?

Trump's opponents, who hoped that these and other charges would sideline the ex-president, were mistaken. Neither the upcoming trial nor the three others have so far harmed the Republican. On the contrary: In view of the legal attacks, the Trump camp seems to be moving even closer together. His popularity ratings have either increased or stagnated at a high level in recent months.

Who are the key figures in the process?

  • Donald Trump, defendant. The former president is running for the highest office in the state again this year. Must face a total of four charges. It's unlikely they'll all launch this year. (Read more about his legal difficulties here)
  • Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer. Turned into an enemy of Trump and testified against him. He himself was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 for tax and financial crimes as well as making false statements.
  • Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels,Porn actress. Her statement got the matter rolling. (The star met the erotic worker)
  • David Pecker, Yellowpress publisher: The editor of the scandal paper “National Enquirer” is a friend of Trump and is said to be hoarding other juicy information that he “bought” from the market in order to protect the US President.
  • Alvin Bragg, senior prosecutor the New York borough of Manhattan. Wants to prove that there is a system behind the Trump hush money payments. Therefore, two further cases will become the subject of the trial, even if they are not the direct subject of the indictment. Including money for the “Playboy” model Karen McDougal, with whom Trump is also said to have had a liaison.

What does Donald Trump say?

Whatever he says about all the other charges: not guilty. This process, like all of them, is a politically motivated “witch hunt.” Furthermore, he did not have an affair with Stormy Daniels.

Sources:, DPA, Reuters, InTouch, FiveThirtyEight