Justice Thomas Returns to Supreme Court After 1-Day Absence (2024)

Monday’s opening statements in the first criminal trial of a former American president provided a clear roadmap of how prosecutors will try to make the case that Donald Trump broke the law, and how the defense plans to fight the charges on multiple fronts.

Lawyers presented dueling narratives as jurors got their first glimpse into the prosecution accusing Trump of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to squelch negative stories about him during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Still to come are weeks of what’s likely to be dramatic and embarrassing testimony about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s personal life as he simultaneously campaigns to return to the White House in November.

Here’s a look at some key takeaways from opening statements:


Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying internal Trump Organization business records. But prosecutors made clear they do not want jurors to view this as a routine paper case. Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said the heart of the case is a scheme to “corrupt” the 2016 election by silencing people who were about to come forward with embarrassing stories Trump feared would hurt his campaign.

“No politician wants bad press,” Colangelo said. “But the evidence at trial will show that this was not spin or communication strategy. 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.” He added: “It was election fraud, pure and simple.”

The business records charges stem from things like invoices and checks that were deemed legal expenses in Trump Organization records when prosecutors say they were really reimbursem*nts to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 hush money payment to p*rn actor Stormy Daniels. Daniels was threatening to go public with claims she had an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump. He says it never happened.

Trump, meanwhile, sought to downplay the accusations while leaving the courtroom on Monday, calling it all a “bookkeeping” case and “a very minor thing.” But he, too, has said it’s all about an election — the one this November. Trump has repeatedly claimed that the case is part of a sweeping Democratic attempt to harm his chances at reclaiming the presidency.


Trump’s attorney used his opening statement to attack the case as baseless, saying the former president did nothing illegal.

The attorney, Todd Blanche, challenged prosecutors’ claim that Trump agreed to pay Daniels to aid his campaign, saying Trump was trying to “protect his family, his reputation and his brand.”

Blanche indicated the defense will argue that after all the very point of a presidential campaign is to try to influence an election.

“It’s called democracy,” Blanche told jurors. “They put something sinister on this idea, as if it was a crime. You’ll learn it’s not.”

Blanche also portrayed the ledger entries at issue in the case as pro forma actions performed by a Trump Organization employee. Trump “had nothing to do with” the allegedly false business records, “except that he signed the checks, in the White House, while he was running the country,” Blanche said. And he argued that the records’ references to legal expenses weren’t false, since Cohen was Trump’s personal lawyer at the time.


The 34 counts in the indictment are related to the payment to Daniels. But prosecutors plan to introduce evidence about a payoff to another woman — former Playboy model Karen McDougal — who claimed a sexual encounter with Trump, as well as to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about Trump having a child out of wedlock. Trump says they were all lies.

Prosecutors said they will show Trump was at the center of the scheme to silence the women, telling jurors they will hear Trump in his voice talking about the plan to pay McDougal. Cohen arranged for the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid to pay McDougal $150,000 but not print the story in a practice known as “catch-and-kill.”

Colangelo told jurors that prosecutors will play for them a recording Cohen secretly made during a meeting with Trump weeks before the 2016 election. In the recording, which first became public in 2018, Trump is heard saying: “What do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?”

Trump “desperately did not want this information about Karen McDougal to become public because he was worried about its effect on the election,” Colangelo said.


The defense’s opening statement previewed what will be a key strategy of the defense: trying to discredit Cohen, a Trump loyalist turned critic and expected star witness for the prosecution. Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money payments in 2018 and and served prison time.

Whether jurors believe Cohen, who says he arranged the payments to the women at Trump’s direction, could make or break the case for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office.

Trump’s lawyer highlighted Cohen’s criminal record, describing him as a serial liar who turned against Trump after he was not given a job in the administration and found himself in legal trouble. Blanche said Cohen’s “entire financial livelihood depends on President Trump’s destruction,” noting he hosts podcasts and has written books bashing his ex-boss.

“He has a goal and an obsession with getting Trump,” Blanche said. “I submit to you that he cannot be trusted.”

Anticipating the defense attacks on Cohen, the prosecution promised to be upfront about the “mistakes” the former Trump attorney has made. But Colangelo said “you can credit Michael Cohen’s testimony” despite his past.

“I suspect the defense will go to great lengths to get you to reject his testimony precisely because it is so damning,” the prosecutor said.


Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker is the first witness for prosecutors, who say that Trump’s alleged scheme to conceal potentially damaging information from voters began with a 2015 Trump Tower meeting among the then-candidate, Pecker and Cohen. Pecker took the witness stand Monday before court broke for the day and his testimony is expected to continue Tuesday.

At the meeting, Pecker — a longtime Trump friend — agreed to aid Trump’s campaign by running favorable pieces about him, smearing his opponents, scouting unflattering stories about him and flagging them to Cohen for “catch-and-kill” deals. Those included the claims made by Daniels, McDougal and the former Trump Tower doorman, Dino Sajudin, prosecutors say. Trump says all were false.

Pecker will likely be asked about all the alleged efforts made by the Enquirer’s then-owner, American Media Inc., on Trump’s behalf. Federal prosecutors agreed in 2018 not to prosecute American Media in exchange for its cooperation in a campaign finance investigation that led to Cohen’s guilty plea, and the Federal Election Commission fined the company $187,500, calling the McDougal deal a “prohibited corporate in-kind contribution.”

Pecker’s brief turn on the stand Monday was mainly just about his background and other basic facts, though he did say the Enquirer practiced “checkbook journalism” — paying for stories — and that he had the final say on any story about a famous person.


The prosecutor referred to Trump during his opening statement as “the defendant.” Trump’s lawyer took a different tack, calling him “President Trump.”

“We will call him President Trump, out of respect for the office that he held,” Blanche said. At the same time, Trump’s lawyer sought to portray Trump as an everyman, describing him as a husband, father and fellow New Yorker.

“He’s, in some ways, larger than life. But he’s also here in this courtroom, doing what any of us would do: defending himself,” Blanche said.

Trump sat quietly while listening to opening statements, occasionally passing notes to his lawyers and whispering in their ears. But outside of the courtroom, he continued his pattern of trying to capitalize politically on the case that will require him to spend his days in a courtroom rather than on the campaign trail.

“This is what they’re trying to take me off the trail for. Checks being paid to a lawyer,” Trump said.

Justice Thomas Returns to Supreme Court After 1-Day Absence (2024)


Justice Thomas Returns to Supreme Court After 1-Day Absence? ›

WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is back on the bench after an unexplained one-day absence. Thomas, 75, was in his usual seat, to the right of Chief Justice John Roberts as the court met to hear arguments in a case about the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

What language did Clarence Thomas speak? ›

He was the second of three children of M.C. Thomas, a farm worker, and Leola Williams. Williams had been born out of wedlock; after her mother's death, she was sent from Liberty County, Georgia, to live with an aunt in Pin Point. The family were descendants of enslaved people and spoke Gullah as a first language.

Who appointed Thomas to the Supreme Court? ›

However, Thomas would get his chance just a year later. Bush nominated him on July 8, 1991 to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Thurgood Marshall. Thomas went through his confirmation hearings in September 1991.

What is a quote from Clarence Thomas? ›

Clarence Thomas Quotes. Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot. I could tell...that my friends were doing their best to get across the message that I wasn't Frankenstein's monster but a perfectly normal human being. What they didn't understand was that my opponents didn't care who I was.

Who is the longest serving justice of the Supreme Court? ›

The longest serving Justice was William O. Douglas who served for 36 years, 7 months, and 8 days from 1939 to 1975. Which Associate Justice served the shortest Term? John Rutledge served the shortest tenure as an Associate Justice at one year and 18 days, from 1790 to 1791.

What ethnicity is Clarence Thomas? ›

Clarence Thomas (born June 23, 1948, Pin Point, near Savannah, Georgia, U.S.) is an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1991, the second African American to serve on the Court.

Is Geechee still spoken? ›

Gullah (also called Gullah-English, Sea Island Creole English, and Geechee) is a creole language spoken by the Gullah people (also called "Geechees" within the community), an African-American population living in coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia (including urban Charleston and Savannah) as well as extreme ...

What is the nickname for a longtime Supreme Court justice? ›

According to the New York Times, the nickname for a long-time Supreme Court Justice is "The Great Dissenter." This nickname typically refers to a Justice who consistently expresses strong disagreements with the majority opinions issued by the Court.

How old was Clarence Thomas when he was appointed to the Supreme Court? ›

As a 43-year-old with barely one year of experience on the judiciary under his belt, Clarence Thomas was quite young and inexperienced when George H. W. Bush nominated him to the Supreme Court in 1991.

How many years has Justice Thomas been on the Supreme Court? ›

Clarence Thomas is an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was nominated by President George H.W. Bush (R) to fill the seat left vacant by Thurgood Marshall and was sworn in on October 23, 1991, becoming the second black justice to sit on the Court in U.S. history.

Why is Clarence Thomas asked to resign? ›

Given his repeated ethical violations over several decades and inability to credibly carry out his public duties, Justice Thomas should resign from the United States Supreme Court.

What is Clarence Thomas personality? ›

Justice Clarence Thomas's primary personality patterns were found to be Contentious/oppositional and Reticent/inhibited, with secondary features of the Conscientious/respectful pattern.

What did Clarence say in It's a Wonderful Life? ›

Clarence : Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he? Clarence : [In book inscription] Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.

Who was the only president to serve as a Supreme Court justice? ›

William Howard Taft was elected the 27th President of the United States (1909-1913) and later became the tenth Chief Justice of the United States (1921-1930), the only person to have served in both of these offices.

Who was the shortest serving Chief Justice? ›

Rutledge was the shortest-serving Chief Justice in Supreme Court history, by a wide margin. He was also the first Supreme Court nominee to be rejected by the Senate and the only Justice appointed during a recess who was ultimately rejected by the Senate.

Can a Supreme Court justice run for president? ›

Hughes led on the first presidential ballot of the convention and clinched the nomination on the third ballot. Hughes accepted the nomination, becoming the first and only sitting Supreme Court Justice to serve as a major party's presidential nominee, and submitted his resignation to President Wilson.

Was Clarence Thomas ever in the military? ›

No, Clarence Thomas never served in the U.S. military. After high school, Thomas enrolled in College of the Holy Cross, located in Worcester, Massachusetts. During his time in college, he received draft deferments.

Who spoke out against Clarence Thomas? ›

In 1991, attorney Anita Hill testified that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her when he was chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and she worked there as an adviser to him.

What has happened to Clarence Thomas? ›

Justice Thomas returns to Supreme Court after 1-day absence

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was back on the bench Tuesday, after an unexplained one-day absence.

Does Clarence Thomas have any pets? ›

Pupdate #2: Clarence Thomas appears to have two dogs.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Reed Wilderman

Last Updated:

Views: 5963

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (72 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Reed Wilderman

Birthday: 1992-06-14

Address: 998 Estell Village, Lake Oscarberg, SD 48713-6877

Phone: +21813267449721

Job: Technology Engineer

Hobby: Swimming, Do it yourself, Beekeeping, Lapidary, Cosplaying, Hiking, Graffiti

Introduction: My name is Reed Wilderman, I am a faithful, bright, lucky, adventurous, lively, rich, vast person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.