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Should Donald Trump have been charged at all in hush money case?

(NewsNation) — The highly anticipated trial of former President Donald Trump over hush money payments kicked off in New York with legal experts offering differing perspectives on the strength of the prosecution’s case.

The trial, which is expected to last up to two months, got off to a tumultuous start. According to reports, the judge issued stern warnings, prosecutors called for Trump to be held in contempt and there were even claims that the former president nodded off during the proceedings — all before a jury had even been selected.

Andrew Warren, the state attorney in Hillsboro County, Florida, defended the decision to prosecute the case, saying it is “really about election interference” and holding Trump accountable.

“This is about Donald Trump, as a candidate, conspiring to deceive voters by illegally covering up information that he believed could have been relevant to the election,” Warren said Monday on NewsNation’s “Dan Abrams Live.”

However, Jim Trusty, a former federal prosecutor who previously represented Trump, argued that the prosecution is engaging in “creative lawyering” to “elevate what ordinarily would be a misdemeanor to a felony charge.”

Trusty suggested the Manhattan district attorney’s office is pursuing the case for political reasons, stating that “prosecutors should not be politicians” and questioning whether there is sufficient evidence to convict.

The case against Trump is built on a novel legal theory, with prosecutors arguing that he and his company falsified business records to cover up another crime — an alleged effort to influence the 2016 presidential election. This is a more complex charge than the original misdemeanor related to the hush money payments.

Prosecutors will need to rely heavily on the testimony of Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to charges connected to the payments. However, Cohen’s credibility as a witness is likely to be a key issue, given his past admissions of lying.

Despite Trump’s repeated attacks on the presiding judge, Juan Merchan, the early indications are that Merchan is striving to be evenhanded. He has already issued some significant rulings in Trump’s favor, denying prosecutors’ requests to introduce the infamous Access Hollywood tape and sexual misconduct allegations against the former president.

While the evidence of Trump orchestrating hush money payments may not be difficult to prove, the greater challenge will be convincing the jury that this was done to cover up an uncharged election crime.

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