New York judge grants 30-day delay in Trump hush-money case

The trial, originally set to start on March 25, has been pushed back to accommodate a defence review of new evidence.

FILE PHOTO: A combination photo shows adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels speaking in New York City, and then- U.S. President Donald Trump speaking in Washington, Michigan, U.S. on April 16, 2018 and April 28, 2018 respectively. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid (L) REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo
Trump has pleaded not guilty to falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 payment to adult performer Stormy Daniels [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

A judge in New York has agreed to postpone a criminal trial against former United States President Donald Trump for 30 days so that the defence team can review new evidence.

Judge Juan Manuel Merchan granted the delay on Friday after prosecutors signalled they were willing to push back the start of the trial, which centres on hush money payments made during the 2016 presidential race.

The trial was originally scheduled to begin on March 25. Even with the delay pushing the proceedings to April, the New York case is still expected to be the first of the four criminal indictments against Trump to go to trial.

On Thursday, New York prosecutors said they were open to delaying the start of the trial “in an abundance of caution” to give Trump’s lawyers time to review records from a previous federal investigation into the matter.

Trump – the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and likely opponent of President Joe Biden in the November election – has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records related to the alleged hush money payments.

They include $130,000 allegedly sent from Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen to adult performer Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence about a sexual encounter she said they had a decade earlier.

In a heavily redacted filing dated March 8 and made public on Thursday, Trump’s lawyers said they needed more time to review thousands of pages of documents they recently received from the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan, which had previously investigated Cohen’s payment to Daniels.

Friday’s delay fell short of the 90-day delay the Trump legal team originally sought.

Trump denies an encounter with Daniels. His lawyers have argued that Cohen paid off Daniels to spare Trump’s family embarrassment – not to boost his electoral chances, as prosecutors have alleged.

They urged Justice Merchan to consider dismissing the indictment altogether, claiming some of the federal prosecutors’ evidence undermined the district attorney’s arguments.

“The statements demonstrate that Cohen did not seek to be, and was not, acting for the benefit of President Trump’s campaign,” Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche wrote.

The statements he was referring to were redacted.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges of violating campaign finance law by making the payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. The US Attorney’s office in Manhattan did not charge Trump in that case.

Earlier this week, Trump asked Merchan to postpone the trial until the US Supreme Court finishes its review of his claim that he is shielded from prosecution by presidential immunity.

The Supreme Court is due to hear those arguments on April 25. The 30-day delay to the hush money trial means it would likely start on that same week – a little over six months before Election Day.

Trump’s four criminal indictments include a state-level case in Georgia over his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results, a federal case in Florida over his handling of classified documents, and a second federal case in Washington, DC, also about alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 race. He has pleaded not guilty in all cases.

None of the other cases has a firm trial date, but any delay to the New York indictment could complicate their scheduling.

Source: News Agencies