Fact-Checking Trump’s Remarks in the Hush Money Trial


Donald J. Trump spent the bulk of the past week in a Manhattan courtroom, standing trial as the first American president to face criminal prosecution.

He is accused of falsifying business records to cover up an affair with a porn actress ahead of the 2016 election.

Even though he did not take the stand as opening statements got underway, he took to the cameras to argue his case each day the court was in session.

Here’s a fact check.

What Was Said

“He puts in an invoice, or whatever, a bill. And they pay it and they call it a legal expense. I got indicted for that. What else would you call it? Actually nobody’s been able to say what you’re supposed to call it.”
in remarks after the trial on Monday

False. Mr. Trump is referring to 11 monthly invoices that are at the heart of the case. Whether or not Mr. Trump or the jury agrees with the assessment of prosecutors, they have been able to characterize those invoices.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Trump’s former fixer, Michael D. Cohen, paid $130,000 to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who was shopping around a story of an affair with Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen says the payment, made just before the 2016 election, was issued at Mr. Trump’s direction. Mr. Cohen then sent 11 monthly invoices to the Trump Organization for legal services beginning in 2017.

Prosecutors have characterized Mr. Cohen’s payment as an illegal campaign contribution, and the invoices as reimbursement intended to falsify business records.

What was Said

“Also the things that he got in trouble for were things that had nothing to do with me. He got in trouble. He went to jail. This had nothing to do with me. This had to do with the taxi cab company.”
in remarks after the trial on Monday

False. Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to five counts of personal tax evasion, one count of bank fraud and two counts of campaign finance violations. The tax evasion counts pertained to Mr. Cohen’s concealment of income derived from taxi medallions he owned and leased out. The campaign finance violations were related to his hush money payments to women at Mr. Trump’s behest. Mr. Cohen faced a maximum of 65 years in prison, with the two counts related to Mr. Trump each carrying a maximum of five years. He was ultimately sentenced to three years in prison.

What was Said

“Federal Elections took a total pass on it. They said essentially nothing was done wrong or they would have done something about it.”
in remarks after the trial on Monday

False. The Federal Election Commission — which is made up of three Republican-aligned commissioners and three Democratic-aligned commissioners — did drop its case looking into Mr. Trump’s hush money payments after a deadlock vote. But it did not absolve him of wrongdoing.

In fact, the commission issued an internal report from the Office of General Counsel in December 2020. The report said that Mr. Trump, Mr. Cohen, the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization “knowingly and willfully” violated federal election law.

But in February 2021, two Republican commissioners voted to dismiss the case while two Democratic commissioners voted to proceed. (There was one recusal and one absence.) The Republican commissioners wrote pursuing the case “was not the best use of agency resources” given that Mr. Cohen had been punished and that there was a backlog of hundreds of other cases.

What was Said

“I’m not allowed to defend myself, and yet other people are allowed to say whatever they want about me.”
— in remarks after the trial on Tuesday

This is exaggerated. Justice Juan M. Merchan, the judge presiding over the case, did impose a gag order on Mr. Trump, but Mr. Trump is overstating what that bars him from saying.

Under the order, Mr. Trump cannot make statements about witnesses concerning their participation in the investigation and court proceedings; about prosecutors, court staff members or their families if the comments are intended to interfere with the case; or any statements about jurors.

In his ruling approving the gag order, Judge Merchan wrote that Mr. Trump’s statements “went far beyond defending himself” against attacks and rather were “threatening, inflammatory, denigrating,” and targeted toward private individuals as well as public figures.

What was Said

“Alvin Bragg is backed by Soros.”
— in an interview with Newsmax on Thursday

This needs context. A financial link does exist between Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney bringing the case against him, and George Soros, the billionaire and Democratic megadonor. But Mr. Soros’s support was not explicitly earmarked for Mr. Bragg.

Mr. Soros donated to a liberal group that endorses progressive prosecutors and supports efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system — in line with causes that he has publicly supported for years. That group used a significant portion of the money to support Mr. Bragg in his 2021 campaign. A spokesman for Mr. Soros previously told The New York Times that the two men had never met, nor had Mr. Soros directly given money to Mr. Bragg’s campaign.

What was Said

“Look at all the crime we have. And yet they have a big portion of their office sitting there over absolutely nothing.”
— in the Newsmax interview

This is exaggerated. The Manhattan district attorney’s office employs about 550 assistant prosecutors and another 1,000 staff members, according to its website. In the Newsmax interview, Mr. Trump estimated that Mr. Bragg had anywhere from “12, 14, 18, 20 people from his office” on the hush money case. (Mr. Bragg has assembled six lawyers for the prosecution team.)

What was Said

“This is all a Biden indictment. It’s in order to try and win an election.”
— in remarks after the trial on Friday

This lacks evidence. Mr. Trump again accused President Biden of orchestrating the legal woes he faces, offering no evidence to support that claim.

Mr. Bragg’s predecessor began investigating the hush money payments in 2018, years before Mr. Biden took office in 2021. As president, Mr. Biden has publicly emphasized the independence of the Justice Department. Moreover, news outlets including The Times have reported that Mr. Biden’s campaign strategy is to say nothing about Mr. Trump’s legal woes. Federal prosecutors in New York who work for the Justice Department have also declined to file charges against Mr. Trump.

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