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Judge confirms March 25 date for Trump criminal trial, the first for a former president in US history

The Republican presidential hopeful had asked the court to throw out the 34 felony counts in the Stormy Daniels case, involving hush money paid to a porn actress in 2016 to protect his political career

Donald Trump
Former president Donald Trump, on Thursday at the Supreme Court of the State of New York.BRENDAN MCDERMID / POOL (EFE)
María Antonia Sánchez-Vallejo

A New York judge on Thursday denied Donald Trump’s request to dismiss criminal charges arising from the payment of hush money to buy the silence of a porn film actress so as not to harm his political career. The 34 felony counts were filed in April by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in the first of four indictments against the former president and favorite to become the Republican candidate for the November 5 presidential election. The confirmation of the trial date, March 25, by Judge Juan Merchan paves the way for the first criminal trial in history against a former president of the United States.

Trump, 77, who leads the Democrat Joe Biden in several voting intention polls, had asked Judge Merchan to throw out the 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up the payment of $130,000 to the actress known as Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election; this money was logged as legal expenses in his company’s official accounts. The legal and media soap opera surrounding Trump’s first indictment was just an appetizer of what was to come later in the year: three more indictments for a total of 91 counts, none of which seem to have made a dent in Trumps’ success at the ongoing primaries. On the contrary, he has used his frequent court appearances to raise funds for his presidential campaign, raising millions of dollars last year alone.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges brought by Bragg, a Democrat. He has pushed to have the case thrown out, arguing that state laws do not apply to federal elections.

Judge Merchan’s will be Trump’s first criminal trial, after a Washington judge recently postponed the trial scheduled for early March for his efforts to subvert the outcome of the 2020 election. That case is on hold pending the outcome of Trump’s appeal claiming that a former president enjoys immunity from prosecution.

Before the hearing, Trump repeated his claims that the case is politically motivated. “How can you run for election if you’re sitting in a courthouse in Manhattan all day long? I’m supposed to be in South Carolina now,” he said in a hallway near the courtroom. In this case, as in the other three, Trump has declared that he is the victim of political persecution by his Democratic rivals to damage his campaign. Meanwhile, a handful of protesters demonstrated at the doors of the court with banners that read “No to dictators in the United States.”

Also in New York, another judge is due to announce on Friday how much Trump and his companies must pay for inflating the value of their properties to obtain advantageous conditions from lenders and insurers, in a civil fraud case that does not involve a prison sentence but in which the state attorney general of New York, Letitia James, is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties. Trump was already found guilty of fraud last September, but the amount of the fine is not yet known. In another civil case, Trump was recently sentenced to pay $83 million to the columnist E. Jean Carroll, whom he sexually abused in the 1990s. He was also convicted of defamation a year ago.

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