Thursday, July 25, 2024

Trump's New York hush money criminal trial is scheduled to begin in March

NEW YORK — Jury selection in Donald Trump's hush-money trial will begin on March 25, a judge ruled Thursday, setting a historic date for what would be the first criminal trial of a former president — one who also leads the Republican Party — in 2024. Candidates for the White House.

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan watched calmly from the defense table in Manhattan Criminal Court as Trump was accused of falsifying business records during the 2016 political campaign to keep a past sexual relationship secret. Adult film star. The judge said he expected the trial to take about six weeks.

Under that schedule, the trial would run from late March to early May, jumping between this spring's presidential nomination nationwide primaries and what prosecutors say is an implied criminal investigation. Broke financial laws.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche pushed back against Merson's decision, insisting the defense needed more time to prepare and that a trial would unreasonably interfere with Trump's quest to return to the White House. He also noted that the former president is scheduled to stand trial in Florida in late May on charges of illegally possessing classified documents and obstructing government efforts to retrieve them. However, the judge in that case indicated that prosecutors could delay the proceedings to allow more time to review highly confidential testimony.

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Of Trump's four separate impeachments, some legal experts consider the charge in New York the least serious, involving conduct dating back eight years that was investigated by federal prosecutors who declined to indict Trump. Nevertheless, the case, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, appears likely to go before a jury first, over the objections of Trump's lawyers.

“In each of those trials we faced very compressed and accelerated schedules,” Blanche said. “It is truly impossible for any person to exist.”

In response, Merchan told Blanche that judges in Trump cases cannot simply wait to see what other courts may or may not do, and that it's time to move on. The judge showed little patience for Blanche's arguments, saying he had heard most of them before and found them flawed.

“Please stop interrupting,” Merson snaps at one point.. … I tried to work with you.

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On February 15, former President Donald Trump appeared in a Manhattan courtroom for a hearing that will determine whether his first criminal trial will begin in March. (Video: The Washington Post)

Discussion in the courtroom quickly turned to jury selection, including what questions to ask potential jurors to ensure they can fairly reach a verdict in a legal case that has no precedent. And in this the defendant is a deeply polarizing public figure.

There's still a slight chance that the New York investigation will take a back seat to a separate federal case against Trump for allegedly conspiring to sway the 2020 election results. But those charges, filed in Washington, have been held up for months in an appeals battle over Trump's presidential immunity claims. Even if an appeals court unanimously ruled against him, Trump could take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could delay that hearing for weeks or months.

At Thursday's hearing, U.S. District Judge Tanya S., who is presiding over the DC trial, Merson said he was consulting with Sudkan and after consulting with him, “we are moving forward with the arbitration on March 25.”

On the sidewalk outside the courtroom, Trump vowed to spend the evening campaigning while attending his New York hearing. It is expected to last about six weeks, with the trial taking up to 17 days. As the trial is held four days a week, the prosecution's case will take a month.

“They want to keep me nice and busy so I can't campaign hard. But we don't have to campaign hard because the other side is incompetent,” Trump said. “I'm going to sit here for months on trial. I think it's ridiculous, it's unfair.

In a statement, Brock said he was pleased with Merson's decision and looked forward to the trial next month.

While Trump appeared before Merson, a separate hearing was held in an Atlanta court where the judge heard evidence of an affair between District Attorney Fannie Willis and his chief prosecutor in a broader lawsuit filed against Trump and more than a dozen others. It is said to have conspired to block the 2020 election results in that state. Defense attorneys argued that Willis' relationship tainted the case, which Willis denies.

Georgia's live coverage of alleged misconduct by District Attorney Fannie Willis, who is prosecuting Trump

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The New York business records lawsuit alleges that Trump misclassified reimbursements to his former lawyer and editor, Michael Cohen. Cohen is now an outspoken Trump critic who has made a career of publicly trashing the former president.

As the 2016 presidential election is about to take place, Cohen paid adult film actress Stormi Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump several years ago. Bragg alleges that Trump reimbursed Cohen through what were described as legal fees, when in fact they were a campaign expense to keep Trump's presidential bid untainted by the sordid allegations.

Cohen is expected to testify for the prosecution. But he is Pleaded guilty in federal court to financial crimes and making false statements. And lawyers usually see His credibility is a weakness in the case.

Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records, a felony in New York, where the purpose of the fraud is “to commit another crime or to aid or conceal an illegal act.” In announcing the charges, Bragg said the goal of Trump's scheme was to cover up violations of law, including New York and federal campaign finance rules. Bragg also said the $130,000 payment exceeded federal campaign contribution limits.

Trump is innocent and denied all wrongdoing. He complains that the New York charges — and the three others he faces — are politically motivated efforts to derail his White House bid.

The former president remained attentive but quiet in a New York courtroom during the hearing, which began shortly after 9:30 a.m. and ended shortly after 11 a.m. Trump sat at the defense table and spoke briefly with lawyers near him. and occasionally with Blanche. But he didn't speak or interrupt, and he kept a very combative presence during a civil trial in New York last month.

Trump has a wide lead among Republican candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, and a conviction would not prevent him from running or holding office.

Trump has different potential outcomes in each case. For example, a conviction in a New York case may or may not result in a prison sentence. But even if Trump is elected, it will be a belief that cannot be pardoned or erased because it is a state case.

On inquiry, the Bragg Committee recommended Potential jurors should be asked if there is a connection to political groups such as QAnon, Proud Boys, Pledge Keepers or Antifa. Although all the candidates are from Manhattan, where all the candidates live without cars or front lawns, prospective jurors want to ask if any of them have political bumper stickers on their cars.

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Another question might be whether they've read books by Cohen or former prosecutor Mark Pomerantz, who wrote about his time prosecuting Trump for the Manhattan district attorney's office. Pomerantz's book was a major topic of controversy after Bragg decided not to bring a criminal case against the Trump Organization for alleged fraudulent business practices. In response, Pomerantz and another senior attorney resigned.

Prosecutors and Trump's defense team disagree on how much to press potential jurors about past political donations. A proposed jury question — if they had ever contributed to a campaign or political action group — was too broad, attorney Joshua Steinglass argued to Merson.

Blanch said given the nature of the allegations against Trump — whether hush payments were made in campaign spending involving past and current presidential candidates — the issue of screening jurors could not be ignored. Blanch also said the court could not get away from the fact that someone who gave money for or against Trump in 2016, 2020 or 2024 could be unfairly biased.

The businessman expressed concern that such questions could go too far.

“If you're going to attack everybody in the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, you're going to get out,” he said.

With the trial over, Blanche once again tried to convince Merson to change his mind about the trial in late March: “We are strongly opposed to what is happening in this courtroom.”

“President Trump is going to be working on this trial for the next two months instead of going on the campaign trail,” Blanch continued, adding, “That's something that shouldn't happen in this country.”

The merchant urged him to come to the point.

“What is your legal argument?” asked the judge.

“This is my legal argument,” insisted Blanche.

“That's not a legal argument,” the judge concluded. “See you on March 25.”

As Blanche leaves, a man in the back of the room He clapped loudly. It's unclear if the applause was in response to Blanche's comments or if they applauded Trump as he walked by.

“Peace among the spectators!” A court official said.

Marianne Levine in Washington contributed to this report.

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