Landmark Trump hush money criminal trial starts in New York Monday

Donald Trump becomes the first U.S. ex-president to go on criminal trial Monday — pushing the nation's legal and electoral systems to the limit less than seven months before Americans decide whether to return the scandal-plagued Republican to the White House.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records in a scheme to cover up an alleged sexual encounter with porn star Stormy Daniels so as not to doom his 2016 election campaign.

The so-called hush money affair is only one of four criminal cases hanging over Trump and it is arguably the least serious.

But the real prospect of Trump becoming a convicted felon — and potentially facing jail time — throws an astonishing wild card into an already unprecedented election in which the right-wing populist is running on dark vows of "vengeance" against Democratic President Joe Biden, who beat him in 2020.

Trump said Friday he would take the stand — an unusual and often risky move for defendants.

"I'm testifying. I tell the truth. I mean, all I can do is tell the truth and the truth is there's no case," he told reporters.

But long before that's confirmed, the trial will start Monday with a likely lengthy and contentious process to select 12 jurors and their alternates.

The pool of more than 100 ordinary citizens convened by Judge Juan Merchan must answer a questionnaire including checks on whether they have been members of far-right groups, like the Proud Boys, which led a mob of Trump supporters in the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol to stop certification of Biden's election.

The actual charges, however, revolve around the nitty gritty of finance laws.

Trump is accused of illegally covering up remittances to his longtime attorney and fixer Michael Cohen...

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