Trump lawyers seek delay in Stormy Daniels hush money case, disclose more documents

Donald Trump walks in the hallway outside a courtroom in New York City. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Pool

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NEW YORK, March 25 (Reuters) – Donald Trump‘s lawyers sought a delay on Monday in the former president’s New York state criminal trial over hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels, disclosing that new federal documents had emerged.
At a hearing in a New York courtroom, Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche said federal prosecutors in Manhattan informed the defense on Sunday that they would be disclosing new material pertaining to Daniels, including statements she made to the FBI.
It was not immediately clear how many documents related to Daniels would be handed over.
Trump’s lawyers want the case dismissed or at least delayed beyond its current April 15 start date.
They accuse prosecutors with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office, which charged Trump, of deliberately withholding potential evidence that could help them challenge the credibility of witness Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer and lawyer, for too long.
Prosecutors say the payoff to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was part of a broader “catch-and-kill” scheme that Cohen and Trump hatched to boost his candidacy by buying the silence of people with damaging information.
Cohen made a $130,000 payment to silence Daniels before the 2016 election about a sexual encounter she said they had a decade earlier – an encounter Trump denies. Cohen testified that Trump directed him to make the payment and went to prison after pleading guilty to violating campaign finance laws.
Trump’s lawyers say the payment was meant to spare himself and his family embarrassment, not to benefit his successful 2016 campaign.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who previously investigated the payment but did not charge Trump, had already turned over additional documents related to Cohen this month after Trump’s defense requested them in January.
The judge appeared skeptical of Blanche’s argument that prosecutors had engaged in misconduct. He asked Blanche why he did not request the documents from federal prosecutors earlier.
Matthew Colangelo, a prosecutor with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, said at the hearing that his office had not sought to suppress any evidence.
“This is a witch hunt, This is a hoax,” Trump, wearing a blue suit and his customary red tie, told reporters in brief remarks before entering the courtroom. “Thank you very much, everybody.”
Trump’s trial was initially scheduled to start on Monday, but prosecutors consented to a 30-day delay to give Trump time to review the new documents.
Merchan’s decision will set the course for what could be the first-ever criminal trial of a former president. Trump, the Republican candidate to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 election, has pleaded not guilty.
The case is one of several legal travails Trump, 77, faces as he ramps up his 2024 campaign.
Also on Monday, Trump won a bid to pause his $454 million civil fraud judgment if he posts a $175 million bond within 10 days, a victory for the former president that blocks New York state authorities from beginning to seize his assets as soon as Monday.
He faces three other criminal cases, which focus on his efforts to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden and his handling of sensitive government documents after leaving office in 2021. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Trump has sought delays in most cases, and successfully pushed back an early March start date to his federal trial in Washington, D.C., over the 2020 election efforts as he pursued an appeal on presidential immunity grounds. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in that case on April 25.
He has also leveraged his criminal cases to try to raise money from supporters, as he lags Biden in fundraising.
Defense lawyers subpoenaed federal prosecutors for Cohen’s bank records and phone and email accounts in January, after Merchan denied their request to get some of those materials from Cohen himself.
“They sought to obstruct our efforts to collect evidence we are entitled to review and use in connection with our trial defense,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in a Feb. 15 court filing, referring to the state prosecutors.
Prosecutors say no further delay is needed because most of the new documents are irrelevant to the case or duplicates of material Trump already had.
Bragg’s office said it asked the federal prosecutors for information from their case against Cohen and turned the materials over to the defense last June.
“Defendant has taken every possible step to evade accountability in this case,” prosecutors with Bragg’s office wrote in a March 21 court filing. “Enough is enough. These tactics by defendant and defense counsel should be stopped.”

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Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Howard Goller

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: Reuters

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