Judge rejects Trump bid to delay ‘hush money’ trial, confirming April 15 start
Judge rejects Trump bid to delay ‘hush money’ trial, confirming April 15 start

The New York judge overseeing the criminal case against former President Donald Trump stemming from a payment of “hush money”. of an adult film star rejected his bid to delay the trial for a new batch of documents, ruling after a hearing on Monday that proceedings would begin on April 15.

“[Prosecutors] they went so far beyond what they were required to do that it’s really strange that we’re even here to take this time,” Judge Juan Murchan said at one point as Trump looked on.

Murchan called a hearing Monday to hear arguments from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office and Trump’s legal team on the new dispute, which centers on roughly 100,000 documents that federal prosecutors turned over to the DA’s office earlier this month . Trump attended the hearing in a Manhattan courtroom, which fell on the same day the trial was originally scheduled to begin.

Earlier this month, Trump’s team protested the late production of the tapes and Murchan set a new tentative trial date from April 15. Trump’s lawyers argued that the proceedings should be further delayed or dropped outright, accusing Bragg’s office of “widespread misconduct” for failing to obtain and turn over the documents sooner. Prosecutors argued they were not required to obtain the records, which originated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York, and said only a small number were relevant to the New York case.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records related to a $130,000 reimbursement payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the days leading up to the 2016 election. Daniels claims she had an affair with Trump years earlier and has agreed to sell the rights to her story in exchange for the payment, which was made by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former “fixer” and lawyer.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied having an affair with Daniels. He called the prosecution a “witch hunt” and a “fraud” as he entered the courtroom with a somber expression on Monday morning.

Hearing on Monday

Former President Donald Trump, left, and Susan Necheles, Trump's lawyer, in a courtroom in New York on Monday, March 25, 2024.
Former President Donald Trump, left, and Susan Necheles, Trump’s lawyer, in a courtroom in New York on Monday, March 25, 2024.

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Trump’s defense has asked for either a longer delay of up to three months or a dismissal of the case, arguing that Bragg’s office intentionally failed to obtain the documents. Prosecutors said they requested the records last year and the Justice Department initially refused to produce them, only to reverse course in response to a defense subpoena and hand them over in early March.

The documents total more than 100,000 pages, relating, among other things, to bank records and emails related to the Justice Department’s own investigation into Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2018. He is now the key witness against Trump on the case in New York.

Murchan began Monday’s hearing by going over a chronology of recent documents and arguments in the case before asking a series of questions aimed primarily at the defense’s contention that the district attorney failed to adequately search the records.

Murchan said defense documents in the run-up to that hearing had gone “far” from his instructions. He then noted that the purpose of Monday’s hearing was “to determine who is responsible for the problems and what sanctions, if any, are needed.” He noted that there were “minor factual issues to resolve.”

The judge added that the issue is “how we characterize the nature and scope” of the state’s obligation to provide documents to the defense, a process known as pretrial discovery. The district attorney’s office said it was under no obligation to provide documents to the Justice Department and made a “good faith” effort to turn over more material to the Trump team than was relevant to the case. Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo added that the number of relevant records is a relatively small proportion of the total – about 300 out of 100,000.

Todd Blanch, a lawyer for Trump, countered that “thousands and thousands” of records were potentially relevant and that the defense needed more time to sort through them. He also revealed that federal prosecutors informed him late Sunday night that they intended to turn over more records related to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Murchan questions Blanche about his accusation that the district attorney’s office willfully failed to obtain material it should have turned over to the defense. He said the defense’s motion to dismiss the case cited a law that states prosecutors must provide materials from any office under their jurisdiction. Murchan asked Blanche if there was a case showing that the US federal prosecutor’s office was under the auspices of the local prosecutor’s office.

“That you don’t have a case to cite right now is really troubling because all the allegations that the defense is making are incredibly serious, incredibly serious,” Murchan said, his voice rising. “You’re literally accusing the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and the people in charge of this case of prosecutorial misconduct and trying to make me complicit in it, and you have no case to cite?”

After a short break, Murchan returned to the courtroom and decided that jury selection would begin on April 15.

“This court finds based on the record before it … that the District Attorney for the District of New York was not at fault for the late production of records by the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” he said.

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