Key players: Who’s who in Donald Trump’s hush-money criminal trial

NEW YORK – Donald Trump’s hush money trial shifts to opening statements on Monday, followed by the start of testimony. Last week, a jury was selected of seven men and five women, plus six alternates.

The lawsuit centers on allegations that the former president falsified his company’s internal records to cover up the true nature of payback payments to his former fixer and attorney Michael Cohen, who arranged hush money payments to bury negative stories about him during his presidential race in 2016.

Witnesses include a porn actor, a former tabloid publisher and Cohen, who went to federal prison for his role in the hush-money case and for other crimes including lying to Congress. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass warned potential jurors in advance that they have “what you might consider baggage.”

Here’s a look at the key players in the historic first criminal trial of a former U.S. president:

DONALD TRUMP – The former president of the United States and presumptive Republican nominee, who leveraged his success as a reality TV star and famous businessman to win the 2016 presidential election, becoming America’s 45th president. The lawsuit includes allegations that he falsified his company’s records to conceal the true nature of payments to Cohen, who helped bury negative stories about him during the 2016 presidential campaign. He has pleaded not guilty.

MICHAEL COHEN – Trump’s former lawyer and fixer. Once a fierce ally of Trump, he is now a key prosecution witness against his former boss. Cohen worked for the Trump Organization from 2006 to 2017. He later went to federal prison after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations related to the hush money schemes and other, unrelated crimes.

STORMY DANIELS – The porn actor who received a $130,000 payment from Cohen as part of his hush money activities. Cohen paid Daniels to keep quiet about what she claimed was a sexual encounter with Trump years earlier. Trump denies having sex with Daniels.

KAREN MCDOUGAL – A former Playboy model who said she had a 10-month affair with Trump in the mid-2000s. She received $150,000 from the National Enquirer’s parent company in 2016 for the rights to her story about the alleged relationship. Trump denies having sex with McDougal.

DAVID PECKER – The former publisher of The National Enquirer and a longtime friend of Trump. Prosecutors say he met with Trump and Cohen at Trump Tower in August 2015 and agreed to help Trump’s campaign identify negative stories about him.

HOPE HICKS – Trump’s former White House communications director. Prosecutors say she spoke to Trump by phone during a frenzied effort to keep allegations of his marital infidelity out of the press after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was leaked weeks before the 2016 election. In the 2005 tape, Trump boasted about grabbing women without consent.

ALVIN BRAGG – Bragg, a former civil rights attorney and law professor, is a Democrat in his first term as Manhattan district attorney. He inherited the Trump investigation when he took office in 2021. He oversaw the prosecution of Trump’s company in an unrelated tax fraud case before moving to indict Trump last year.

MATTHEW COLANGELO – A former senior Justice Department official who was hired by Bragg in 2022 to lead the Trump investigation. They previously worked together on Trump-related cases at the New York attorney general’s office.

JOSHUA STEINGLASS – He has been a Manhattan district attorney for more than 25 years and has worked on some of the office’s most high-profile cases, including the Trump Organization’s 2022 tax fraud conviction and violent crime cases.

SUSAN HOFFINGER – As head of the District Attorney’s Office of Investigations, she returned to the office in 2022 after more than two decades in private practice with her sister Fran. She worked with Steinglass on the Trump Organization’s tax fraud prosecution.

TODD ​​BLANCHE – Blanche, a former federal prosecutor, previously represented former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in a mortgage fraud case – and got it thrown out. Blanche successfully argued that the case, brought by the same prosecutor’s office now prosecuting Trump, was too similar to the case that landed Manafort in federal prison and therefore amounted to double jeopardy.

SUSAN NECHELES – Necheles, a former Brooklyn prosecutor, is a respected New York City attorney who represented Trump’s company during last year’s tax fraud trial. In the past, she served as counsel to the underboss of the late Genovese crime family Venero Mangano, better known as Benny Eggs, and defended John Gotti’s lawyer, Bruce Cutler, in the early 1990s.

EMIL BOVE – Bove, a star lacrosse player in college, was a veteran federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. He has been involved in several high-profile prosecutions, including a drug trafficking case against the brother of the former Honduran president, a man who detonated a pressure cooker in Manhattan and a man who sent dozens of mail bombs to prominent targets across the country.

JUAN M. MERCHAN — The judge presiding over the case. He also served as a judge in the Trump Organization’s 2022 tax fraud trial and is overseeing a border wall fraud case against longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon. Merchan has twice denied Trump’s lawyers’ requests to set aside the case. They claim he is biased because his daughter runs a political consulting firm that has worked for Democrats, including President Joe Biden. Merchan has said he is confident in his “ability to be fair and impartial.”

Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.