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Sunday May 19, 2024

Trump’s hush money trial will not be delayed because of publicity: judge rules

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges in four criminal cases he faces

By Reuters
April 14, 2024
Former US President Donald Trump talks to reporters at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters headquarters on January 31, 2024. — AFP
Former US President Donald Trump talks to reporters at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters headquarters on January 31, 2024. — AFP

NEW YORK: The New York judge overseeing Donald Trump’s hush money criminal case rejected the former U.S. president’s bid to delay Monday’s scheduled trial on the ground that substantial pre-trial publicity would make the proceedings unfair.

Trump had sought an indefinite delay, saying media coverage was prejudiced against him, and finding an acceptable jury in Manhattan would be tough because the borough was “overwhelmingly biased” against him.

But in a decision on Friday, Justice Juan Merchan said an indefinite adjournment was “not tenable.”

Merchan also said Trump himself generated much of the publicity surrounding his legal troubles, including through “unrelenting media posts” attacking people he blamed for them.

“The situation defendant finds himself in now is not new to him and (is) at least in part, of his own doing,” Merchan wrote.

Prosecutors argued the publicity was not likely to drop, and it would be “perverse” to reward Trump with a delay based on media attention he courted.

They also said thorough questioning of prospective jurors would likely find enough who could decide the case fairly.

Trump is the Republican presidential candidate in an expected Nov. 5 election rematch against Democratic incumbent Joe Biden, who beat him in 2020.

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump’s campaign, said in an email: “President Trump and his legal team will continue fighting against this Biden Trial and all of the other Witch Hunts.”

Earlier this week, three individual state appeals court judges rejected various arguments by Trump for a trial delay, though a full panel will eventually consider the issues.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges in four criminal cases he faces.

The hush money case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg would be the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

Prosecutors say Trump covered up $130,000 of payments that his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election, to ensure her silence about an extramarital sexual encounter a decade earlier.

Trump has denied the encounter happened, and pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

His lawyers have said the payments were legitimate legal expenses. The hush money case could be Trump’s only criminal trial before November’s election.