Melania Trump Named Potential Witness in Donald Trump Hush Money Criminal Trial: Can She Be Forced to Take the Stand?

By Jace Dela Cruz

Apr 18, 2024 06:56 AM EDT

As former President Donald Trump's hush money criminal trial in New York begins, his wife, Melania Trump, was among the over 40 potential witnesses mentioned by state judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the historic case.

According to Newsweek, Merchan read the names of the possible witnesses, which also include Trump's adult children, Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka, on Monday, the first day of the trial. 

The judge told prospective jurors to notify the court if any of these individuals might affect their duty to be fair and impartial. However, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has not yet implied if he will or will not call the former first lady to testify in the case.

Bragg indicted Trump in April 2023 on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records to hide reimbursement payments to his former lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen for the money paid to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The payment was to silence the porn star who claimed she had sex with Trump in 2006, not long after Melania gave birth to their son Barron. Trump has denied the sexual encounter and pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Former President Trump Arrives At A Fundraiser In Palm Beach, Florida
PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - APRIL 6: Republican presidential candidate, former US President Donald Trump, arrives at the home of billionaire investor John Paulson, with former first lady Melania Trump, on April 6, 2024 in Palm Beach, Florida.
(Photo : Alon Skuy/Getty Images)

Can Melania Trump Be Forced to Testify Against Donald Trump?

Legal experts told Newsweek that the prosecution could legally force Melania Trump to testify in her husband's criminal trial. Former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani told the outlet that if Melania "is subpoenaed by the prosecution, she would have to testify unless she can assert some sort of privilege." 

According to Rahmani, Melania could invoke a spousal privilege in this case that is codified into New York law and protects private spousal communications "during the course of the marriage." It also prevents any testimony against a spouse from being used in judicial proceedings.

However, former federal prosecutor Michael McAuliffe told Newsweek that the likelihood of Melania being forced to take the stand "is extremely low to non-existent" because the former first lady has no involvement in the underlying allegations that Donald Trump had an affair with Stormy Daniels.

"Any government attempt to force her to be present as a potential witness would just feed Trump's preferred narrative that the case is about airing salacious rumors instead of holding Trump accountable for crimes," McAuliffe told the outlet.

READ NEXT: Donald Trump's Truth Social to Launch Streaming Platform, But Trump Media Stock Still Drops as New Plan Fails to Excite Investors 

Former Donald Trump Aide Says Melania Trump Testifying Against Her Husband Could 'Backfire' on Alvin Bragg

A former Donald Trump aide said this week that she does not think Melania Trump will likely be asked to speak in her husband's criminal trial as it could "backfire" on Alvin Bragg.

"I think this will come down to more of a paper trail kind of case, and I think they have the facts there," Alyssa Farah Griffin said during Wednesday's airing of "The View."

"I think to call her [Melania] would look salacious, would likely backfire too. She's never broken with him on major issues," the co-host of "The View" added.

READ MORE: Donald Trump's Wealth Drops Nearly $2 Billion as Trump Media Shares Sink to Lowest Level Since the Firm Went Public

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