An Unprecedented Trial Opens With Two Visions of Trump

Manhattan prosecutors delivered a raw recounting of Donald J. Trump’s seamy past on Monday as they debuted their case against him to jurors, the nation and the world, reducing the former president to a co-conspirator in a plot to cover up three sex scandals that threatened his 2016 election win.

Their opening statement was a pivotal moment in the first prosecution of an American president, a sweeping synopsis of the case against Mr. Trump, who watched from the defense table, occasionally shaking his head. Moments later, Mr. Trump’s lawyer delivered his own opening, beginning with the simple claim that “President Trump is innocent,” then noting that he is once again the presumptive Republican nominee and concluding with an exhortation for jurors to “use your common sense.”

The jury of 12 New Yorkers who will weigh Mr. Trump’s legal fate before millions of voters decide his political future also heard brief testimony from the prosecution’s leadoff witness, David Pecker, a former tabloid publisher who was close with Mr. Trump. Mr. Pecker, who ran The National Enquirer, testified that his supermarket tabloids practiced “checkbook journalism.” In this case, prosecutors say, he bought and buried stories that could have imperiled Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Police officers patrolled the area around the dingy courthouse, where reporters set up a temporary camp.Credit…Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

The flurry of activity on the landmark trial’s first formal day captivated jurors, many of whom jotted notes as they followed along.

And it sent nervous energy through a Lower Manhattan courthouse as bomb-sniffing dogs, the U.S. Secret Service and the police patrolled the dingy building. The spectacle was a vivid reminder of the proceeding’s unprecedented nature: A courthouse accustomed to cycling through trials of murderers, fraudsters and felons of all types now had its first former president.

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