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Former US president Donald Trump. Alamy Stock Photo
New York

Judge delays Donald Trump's hush-money criminal trial for 30 days

The trial had been due to begin on 25 March.

A NEW YORK judge has delayed former US president Donald Trump’s hush-money criminal trial until at least mid-April after his lawyers said they needed more time to go through evidence they only recently obtained. 

Judge Juan Manuel Merchan agreed to a 30-day postponement and scheduled a hearing for 25 March, the date the trial had been due to start, to address questions about the evidence dump.

It is among four criminal indictments against Trump, the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee. His lawyers had pushed for a 90-day delay to proceedings, which would have seen the trial get underway in early summer. 

Prosecutors said they were happy with a 30-day adjournment “in an abundance of caution and to ensure that defendant has sufficient time to review the new materials”.

Trump’s lawyers said they have received tens of thousands of pages of evidence in the last two weeks from the US attorney’s office in Manhattan, which investigated the alleged hush-money arrangement while Trump was president.

The evidence includes records about former Trump lawyer-turned-prosecution witness Michael Cohen that are “exculpatory and favourable to the defence,” Trump’s lawyers said.

Prosecutors said most of the newly turned over material is “largely irrelevant to the subject matter of this case”, though some records are pertinent.

The hush-money case centres on allegations that Trump falsified his company’s records to hide the true nature of payments to Cohen, who paid porn actor Stormy Daniels $130,000 (€119,000) during the 2016 US presidential campaign to suppress her claims of an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump years earlier.

Last year, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records and has denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels. His lawyers argue the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses and were not part of any cover-up.

Prosecutors have argued that Trump’s lawyers caused the evidence problem by waiting until 18 January – a mere nine weeks before the scheduled start of jury selection – to subpoena the US attorney’s office for the full case file.

District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said it requested the full file last year but the US attorney’s office turned over only a subset of records.

His office said that Trump’s lawyers received that material last June and had ample time to seek additional evidence from the federal probe.

Short trial delays because of issues with evidence are not unusual, but any delay in a case involving Trump would be significant, with trial dates in his other criminal cases up in the air and election day less than eight months away.

The defence has also sought to delay the trial until after the Supreme Court rules on Trump’s presidential immunity claims, which his lawyers say could apply to some of the allegations and evidence in the hush money case.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in that case on 25 April.

Trump has repeatedly sought to postpone his criminal trials while he campaigns to retake the White House.

“We want delays,” Trump told reporters as he headed into a February 15 hearing in New York. “Obviously I’m running for election. How can you run for election if you’re sitting in a courthouse in Manhattan all day long?”

With reporting from Press Association

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