Donald Trump wanted delays in trials and he is getting them. The secret money case is the last to be postponed

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By journalsofus.com


The former president’s election interference case in Washington, D.C. is on hold until the Supreme Court rules on his immunity claims. His trial over classified documents in Florida is also likely to be postponed. And his trial for electoral subversion in Georgia has not been scheduled.

Now his New York criminal trial over hush money, once considered the most timely of the four, is in scheduling limbo, postponed until at least mid-April. The problem: breaking evidence from a 2018 federal investigation into the same issues.

After Trump’s lawyers complained, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said it would be open to a 30-day delay to ensure his defense team has enough time to review the material. Trump’s lawyers wanted a 90-day delay and also asked for the case to be dismissed.

Judge Juan Manuel Merchán scheduled a hearing for March 25 (the day jury selection was supposed to begin) to resolve last-minute issues. Here’s a look at what’s behind the disruption.

WHAT IS THE HUSH-MONEY CASE ABOUT?

The case involves an alleged scheme to prevent potentially damaging stories about his personal life from becoming public during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg accused Trump nearly a year ago of falsifying internal records kept by his company to conceal the nature of payments made to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen, who paid porn actor Stormy Daniels $130,000. He said he had an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump. He denies it.

Trump’s company then reimbursed Cohen an amount far greater than he had spent and recorded the payments as legal expenses, prosecutors said. Over several months, Cohen said he received $420,000.

Trump pleaded not guilty last year to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. His attorneys argue that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses.

WHY DID TRUMP’S LAWYERS WANT A DELAY?

Trump’s lawyers say they are being inundated with late-arriving evidence: more than 100,000 pages of records from a separate federal investigation into Cohen that concluded years ago. Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign violations and other unrelated crimes and served about a year in prison.

Trump’s lawyers say they need time to review material turned over by the US attorney’s office in Manhattan, including bank records, witness statements and other evidence.

Trump’s lawyers blame Manhattan prosecutors for not pressuring their federal counterparts to turn over evidence sooner. The US attorney’s office finally began producing documents on March 4 after Trump’s lawyers subpoenaed them in January.

A final batch containing about 15,000 pages was expected to be delivered on Friday, bringing the total to about 119,000 pages.

Trump’s lawyers say some of the records are “exculpatory and favorable to the defense.” Prosecutors maintain that most of the material is “largely irrelevant.”

Sharing evidence before a trial is routine.

WHY DID YOU NOT RECEIVE THESE RECORDS BEFORE?

Trump’s lawyers allege that the Manhattan district attorney’s office was trying to hide evidence as part of a “desperate effort” to gain an advantage in the trial.

“The People should have collected all of these documents a long time ago,” Trump lawyers Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles wrote in court papers. “Instead, they collected some materials but left others with federal authorities, hoping that President Trump would never receive them.” them.”

Bragg’s office argued that Trump’s lawyers caused the time crunch by waiting until Jan. 18 to subpoena the U.S. attorney’s office to hand over all the records it wanted.

In a court filing made public Thursday, the district attorney’s office said it requested the entire record last year, but the U.S. attorney’s office only turned over a subset of the records. Trump’s lawyers received that material last June and had enough time to seek additional evidence from the federal investigation, the district attorney’s office said.

On Friday, the district attorney’s office clarified that it had not requested the entire case file from the U.S. attorney’s office because much of what it contained was not relevant.

The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

WHAT IS THE FEDERAL INVESTIGATION ABOUT?

Federal prosecutors investigated Cohen for a variety of concerns, including tax issues related to a taxi business he operated and questions about whether he was trying to illegally profit from his connections to Trump.

However, the case was eventually reduced, and in 2018 Cohen pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance violations related to the payment to Daniels, making false statements in a bank loan application, and evading taxes. A few months later, he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.

In their case against Cohen, federal prosecutors said the hush money payment was made to benefit Trump and occurred with his knowledge, but stopped short of accusing Trump of directly committing a crime.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which provides legal advice and guidance to federal agencies, has maintained that a sitting president cannot be impeached. Federal prosecutors did not revive their investigation once Trump left the White House.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT IN THE CASE OF NEW YORK?

Merchan will hold a hearing on March 25 to determine whether anyone deserves to be penalized for delays in providing documents to Trump’s legal team. Trump’s lawyers have asked that the case be dismissed.

Trump’s lawyers also asked the judge to delay the trial until the Supreme Court rules on Trump’s presidential immunity claims. His lawyers say a ruling in Trump’s favor could negate some evidence in the hush money case, such as social media posts he made while president in 2018.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office says Trump’s immunity claims have little bearing on his hush money case and do not justify a delay.

AND THE OTHER TRUMP CASES?

“We want delays,” Trump proclaimed while addressing a Feb. 15 hearing in the hush money case. So far, he’s getting his way.

Neither of Trump’s two federal prosecutions (in Florida and Washington, D.C.) are guaranteed a trial this year, in part because of his efforts to halt the proceedings. His trial for election interference in Georgia has not been scheduled. That case was shaken Friday by a judge’s ruling that led special prosecutor Nathan Wade to resign.

Trump’s trial in Florida, where he is accused of illegally withholding classified documents, had been set for May 20. But for months it was clear that date would not stand, as the judge has weighed multiple prosecution challenges and several evidentiary disputes.

U.S. District Judge Alieen Cannon has given no indication of when she plans to set a trial date.

“We firmly believe that a trial that takes place before the election is a mistake and should not take place,” Blanche told Cannon. “The easy solution is to start this trial after the election.”

Trump’s case in Washington, D.C., involving allegations that he conspired to overturn the 2020 election, had been considered the most likely to go to trial first, but that is no longer the case.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan had scheduled the trial for March 4, but that was overturned by an appeal by Trump holding that he had immunity from prosecution for official acts performed at the White House.

The judge stayed the case while the appeal moved through the courts. That decision created significant uncertainty about whether there will be enough time for a trial before the election, assuming the high court allows the prosecution.

HOW DOES TRUMP BENEFIT FROM DELAYS?

The longer Trump’s trials are postponed, the more he will argue that it is impractical and unfair to lock him up in court instead of letting him campaign. But there are also practical benefits.

If Trump becomes president, he could order the Justice Department to drop federal cases or try to pardon himself. But he couldn’t forgive himself in the hush money or Georgia cases because they involve state charges. Presidential pardons only apply to federal crimes.

Meanwhile, if there is a rush to try Trump before Election Day (now eight months away), the judge in the hush money case said he can rest assured he won’t be forced to decide between attending overlapping trials.

“He won’t be in more than one criminal trial at a time,” Merchan said.

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Tucker reported from Fort Pierce, Florida.

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