Judge Rejects Trump's Attempt To Delay Hush Money Trial

NEW YORK — A New York state judge ruled Monday that the criminal trial against former President Donald Trump stemming from a hush money payment he allegedly made to a porn actor can proceed, denying Trump’s request to have the case delayed further or altogether dismissed.

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, sat alongside his lawyers as Judge Juan Merchan announced that jury selection in the case would begin on April 15.

The trial — the first-ever criminal trial of a former president — had originally been scheduled to start Monday but was delayed one month after prosecutors agreed to allow Trump’s defense attorneys to review some 100,000 pages of documents of potential new evidence.

Trump’s lawyers had sought to have the trial delayed for an additional 90 days or to have the charges altogether dismissed over what they argued were “violations” of the discovery process, alleging the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg had failed to hand over evidence to the defense team in a timely fashion. This, Trump’s lawyers alleged, was a deliberate attempt to bury potentially exculpatory evidence and amounted to “widespread misconduct.”

But prosecutors argued that the new tranche of documents contained little evidence relevant to the case and didn’t require a further postponement of the trial. Prosecutors received the documents in question earlier this month from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan, the federal prosecutors who investigated Trump’s alleged hush money payments but decided not to charge the former president.

The documents are related to Michael Cohen, the former Trump lawyer and fixer turned state witness. Prosecutors allege Trump instructed Cohen to give porn actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 before the 2016 election to stop her from publicizing a story about an extramarital sexual encounter she claims to have had with the former president a decade prior. Trump denies the tryst took place.

Trump was charged last year with 34 counts of falsifying business records in relation to the alleged hush money payments.

“This is a witch hunt, this is a hoax,” the former president told reporters before entering the courtroom Monday. During the hearing, his lawyers argued that the new batch of documents could contain evidence that would discredit Cohen as a witness, and that they needed more time to review Cohen’s emails and bank statements.

But Judge Merchan seemed unsympathetic to this argument, and appeared to grow frustrated with Trump’s lawyers when they couldn’t cite a single legal precedent to support the argument that the Manhattan DA’s could’ve forced the U.S. Attorney’s office to fork over the documents earlier.

“The allegation you make about the people’s case is incredibly serious, unbelievably serious,” Merchan told Trump attorney Todd Blanche. “You’re literally accusing the Manhattan DA’s office of prosecutorial misconduct and trying to make me complicit in it and you don’t have a single [legal precedent to] cite.”

During a 45-minute recess in the court proceedings, news broke that a state appeals court had ruled in Trump’s favor in a separate case — the civil fraud case brought against Trump by New York Attorney General Letitia James. James had initially won a judgment against Trump, with a court finding that he’d committed fraud by falsely inflating his net worth. The appellate court decision Monday reduced his $464 million bond in the case, a potentially financially crippling sum, to $175 million.

Back inside the courtroom after the recess, Trump scowled as Merchan ruled that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office was “not at fault for the late production of documents” and the office had made a “diligent, good faith effort” during the discovery process.