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Five key questions on how start of Trump's first criminal trial will impact presidential campaign

PoliticsFive key questions on how start of Trump's first criminal trial will impact presidential campaign

Former President Donald Trump makes history on Monday, as he becomes the first current or former president in the nation’s history to go on trial.

Trump’s hush-money trial, which will get underway in a New York City courtroom, will have an instant impact on his 2024 election rematch with President Biden.

The former president — who is being tried on 34 state felony charges — is accused of falsifying business records in relation to hush-money payments during the 2016 election he made to Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about his alleged affair with the adult film actress.

Trump has repeatedly denied falsifying business records as well as the alleged sexual encounter with Daniels.

COURT DENIES TRUMP BIDS TO DELAY START OF HUSH MONEY TRIAL

Trump Trial NY

 Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump attends a pre-trial hearing at Manhattan Criminal Court on February 15, 2024, in New York City. Trump was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records last year, which prosecutors say was an effort to hide a potential sex scandal, both before and after the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Jefferson Siegel-Pool/Getty Images)

The former president’s legal team has tried numerous times, unsuccessfully, to further delay or postpone the trial.

The unprecedented trial is the first of Trump’s four criminal cases — including two for his alleged attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden and another for mishandling classified documents — to go to trial. And it may end up being the only case to wrap up with a verdict before the November election.

THE TRUMP TRIALS: HERE’S WHERE EACH CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST THE FORMER PRESIDENT STANDS

Here are five key questions about how the trial will impact the presidential campaign:

How long will the trial take and does Trump have to attend every day?

The trial is expected to last roughly six to eight weeks, starting with the beginning of jury selection on Monday. The proceedings are scheduled to take place weekly on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, with Wednesday an off day.

The judge in the case, Juan Merchan, has indicated he may adjourn the trial for the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins on the evening of April 22.

New York law requires Trump to be present in the courtroom throughout the duration of the trial. But Merchan may give the former president some leeway, so Trump can attend legal hearings in some of his other cases that will take place during the length of the hush-money trial.

Will the trial be televised?

While Trump’s trial will attract scores of cameras, they won’t be inside the courtroom.

The trial is not expected to be televised, because New York State has among the most restrictive laws in the country in terms of banning cameras in courtrooms and prohibiting live audio or visual broadcasts of trials. 

But still photographs of the courtroom will likely be allowed. When Trump was arraigned last year, Merchan permitted still photographers to take pictures before the actual arraignment. He also allowed TV cameras in the hallways of the courthouse.

How much coverage will it generate?

A lot!

Trump is expected to continue his practice of grabbing the media spotlight — both on cable news and online — with his courtroom arrivals and departures, by holding impromptu press conferences.

Trump leaves Manhattan criminal court

Former President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media in the hallway outside a courtroom at a Manhattan court in New York, on Monday, March 25, 2024.  (Brendan McDermid/Reuters/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“Trump can dominate the message environment anytime he wants,” longtime Republican strategist Dave Carney told Fox News. “We’ve never seen anything like this where one guy – whatever he says – gets full coverage. It’s a phenomenon. Whether it’s social media or cable TV or even broadcast TV, he just dominates the news.”

Carney, a veteran of numerous presidential campaigns, forecast that “there will be such coverage of his court cases that at times I would bet there will be more reporters covering his stakeout than covering the president.”

During the Republican presidential primaries, Trump used the multiple criminal and civil cases he faces to cast himself as a victim, which fired up support among GOP voters and boosted fundraising.

A mug shot of Trump, taken last August in a separate case where he is charged with conspiring to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia, has helped the former president raise millions of dollars and quickly became an iconic image for his legions of MAGA supporters.

Donald Trump mugshot

On August 24, 2023, after being indicted on racketeering and related charges, former President Donald Trump voluntarily surrendered himself to authorities at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Georgia, where a mug shot of him was taken. (Fulton County Sheriff’s Office)

When will Trump campaign?

Trump has repeatedly claimed that the trial is “election interference.”

“I don’t know how you can have a trial that’s going on right in the middle of an election. Not fair. Not fair. It’s not fair at all,” he told reporters in New York City recently.

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But sources in the former president’s political orbit tell Fox News that a schedule is being mapped out that includes making the most of Wednesdays, when court is not in session, as well as weekends, when Trump usually holds rallies and other campaign events such as fundraisers.

Regardless of the trial, Trump campaign senior adviser Chris LaCivita recently predicted that “we have the message, the operation and the money to propel President Trump to victory on November 5.”

How will the Biden campaign react?

The president has mostly shied away from making direct comments on Trump’s criminal cases. The same is true for his re-election campaign team, as they don’t want to give Trump any ammunition as he continues to claim that the cases against him are politically motivated. 

President Biden campaigns in Nevada and Arizona - two crucial western battleground states

President Joe Biden speaks at the Washoe Democratic Party Office in Reno, Nev., Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“We’ll let Donald Trump focus on his own problems — our campaign is focused on the American people and earning their vote this November,” Biden campaign rapid response director Ammar Moussa said recently.

But don’t be surprised if Biden allies or surrogates launch much sharper attacks as the trial gets underway.

While Trump is in court this week, the president will make campaign stops Tuesday through Thursday in Pennsylvania, one of the six crucial battleground states that Biden narrowly carried in 2020 to win the White House.

The swing through the Keystone State — where Biden is expected to spotlight his plans to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans — is seen as counter-programming to Trump’s trial.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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