Trump will face the first ever criminal trial of a former US president starting on April 15

The current Republican presidential candidate’s lawyers unsuccessfully requested a new 90-day delay in the Stormy Daniels case

Donald Trump
Donald Trump arrives at the New York criminal court this Monday.Spencer Platt (via REUTERS)
María Antonia Sánchez-Vallejo

Former President Donald Trump appeared in criminal court in New York on Monday for a pre-trial hearing in the Stormy Daniels case (the payment of hush money to a porn actress to buy her silence about an extramarital affair). The hearing settled only procedural issues: whether the start of the trial, initially scheduled for this Monday but delayed by the introduction of new evidence to the case, could be delayed further; his lawyers requested up to 90 days. In this case, as well as the other three criminal cases and two civil cases the ex-president faces, his defense team has based its strategy on delaying the trials. The prosecution argued that there was no reason for this trial to be delayed beyond mid-April, considering that the delay already granted has given the defense sufficient time to study the new evidence. The judge agreed, and the first criminal trial against a former U.S. president will begin on April 15.

Manhattan District Attorney Democrat Alvin Bragg’s office asked the judge not to accept further delays in the trial for Trump’s hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election campaign; the payment was made to avoid a scandal that would have tarnished his good name as a candidate for president. Ten days ago, Judge Juan Merchan adjourned the trial, at least until mid-April, following the emergence of new documents, which Bragg considers largely irrelevant or redundant. But the delay by federal prosecutors in turning over that evidence provided a new argument for the defense to request another 90-day delay and even a dismissal of the case for alleged prosecutorial malpractice, or at least carelessness, in timing issues.

This Monday, Trump returned to the place where about a year ago the same judge read him the 34 criminal charges for falsifying business records to cover up the hush money deal with the porn star (the disbursement was labeled as a legal expense in the company’s accounts). The payment was made by Michael Cohen, who was then Trump’s lawyer and confidant; he later became a prosecution witness against the former president. In fact, the new documents recently delivered by federal prosecutors come from previous investigations of Cohen, who was tried and sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 for what was once considered an illicit campaign finance crime: the aforementioned payment of $130,000 to the actress. According to one of the prosecutors, “99%” of the documents were irrelevant and many of them were Cohen’s bank records; Cohen brokered all kinds of dirty deals for Trump when he served as the former president’s fixer and is now expected to be the trial’s star witness.

Trump’s legal team’s efforts to delay all prosecutions as long as possible until after the Nov. 5 election are based on Trump’s hope of re-election, which would effectively end or slow down the criminal cases against him. The other three criminal prosecutions are currently bogged down in various delays, so the Manhattan case may be the only one to be resolved before the election.

All of this comes as Trump’s other lawsuits — including federal prosecutions for election interference and allegedly mishandling classified documents — are on hold and he tries to run out the clock until November with frantic litigation and appeals. The Supreme Court is due to consider his broad claim of presidential immunity for acts committed while in office next month, and a ruling is not expected until the end of June. The decision could have major implications for the criminal cases Trump faces as he seeks a second presidential term.

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