Trump trial updates: Prosecutors say Trump engaged in criminal conspiracy and a cover-up. Defense lawyers call it 'democracy.'

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump awaits the start of proceedings at Manhattan criminal court on Monday. (Yuki Iwamura/AP)

This is Yahoo News' succinct update on the criminal and civil cases against former President Donald Trump. Here are the latest developments:

Trump’s historic trial on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records got underway in Manhattan on Monday. During opening arguments in the first ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president, prosecutors told jurors that Trump engaged in a “criminal conspiracy and a cover-up,” when he tried to obscure a $130,000 payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump’s lawyers countered that the payment and the way it was reported did not break any laws. “There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election; it’s called democracy,” defense attorney Todd Blanche said. “They put something sinister on this idea as if it was a crime. You’ll learn it’s not.”

Key lines from prosecutors during opening arguments: Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told jurors that Trump’s hush money payments violated campaign finance laws. “This was a planned, coordinated, long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election, to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures, to silence people who had something bad to say about his behavior, using doctored corporate records. It was election fraud, pure and simple.” Colangelo said he would play the jury recordings, for example, of Trump directing his then attorney Michael Cohen to pay Daniels, including what he said was a remark made by Trump, “So what do we gotta pay for this, 150?” The payment to Daniels was part of a larger conspiracy between Trump, Cohen and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, Colangelo said. “Those three men … struck an agreement at that meeting together, they conspired to influence the 2016 presidential election.”

Key lines from defense lawyers during opening arguments: Blanche began his presentation with a statement he hopes will stick in the minds of jurors. “President Trump is innocent,” he said, repeatedly referring to his client as if he were still president. “President Trump did not commit any crimes. The Manhattan DA’s office should never have brought this case.” Blanche also took aim at one of the prosecution’s star witnesses, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who arranged and made the payment to Daniels. “Unbeknownst to President Trump, in all the years that Mr. Cohen worked for him, Mr. Cohen was also a criminal,” Blanche said. “He cheated on his taxes, he lied to banks, he lied about side businesses.” In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts including tax evasion and campaign finance violations that were committed when he worked for Trump and was sentenced to three years in jail.

David Pecker called as first witness: Prosecutors called Pecker to testify about his efforts to help Trump in the run-up to the 2016 election by purchasing potentially damaging stories about him and then burying them. The practice, known as "catch and kill," violated campaign finance laws, prosecutors alleged. “We used checkbook journalism, and we paid for stories,” Pecker testified.

  • At 9:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Merchan holds a hearing on whether Trump violated his gag order by posting social media messages about witnesses and family members of courtroom staff.

  • At 11 a.m. ET Pecker resumes his testimony.