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Judge says Trump hush money trial set for March, despite pleading from defense team

Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — The judge in former President Trump’s criminal hush money case in New York City says Trump’s trial will proceed on March 25 as planned.

In the case’s final hearing before the trial gets underway, Judge Juan Merchan began the proceedings Thursday by denying Trump’s motion to dismiss the case, saying the trial would begin March 25 with jury selection.

With Trump in the courtroom, his attorney Todd Blanche responded by arguing for a delay, saying Merchan was putting the former president “in an impossible position” by scheduling a trial in the midst of a series of “compressed and expedited schedules” elsewhere in the country, citing Trump’s criminal cases in Washington, Georgia and Florida.

Merchan — who said he had consulted twice with Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing Trump’s federal election interference case in Washington, D.C. — allowed Blanche to air several complaints before cutting him off, asking sharply, “Is there anything else you want to put on the record?”

“I’ve tried to work with you where it’s reasonable,” Merchan told Blanche. “You’re not going to be in two places at the same time.”

Blanche also insisted to Judge Merchan that the onslaught of media coverage is tainting the jury pool.

“The constitution affords the president a fair trial,” Blanche said.

“I appreciate what you’re saying about your client’s constitutional rights. I don’t want to violate his constitutional rights nor does anyone else,” Merchan said. “We are moving ahead towards jury selection on March 25.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, alleging that Trump falsified Trump Organization records to hide payments he made to his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who allegedly used the money to kill stories about Trump’s long-denied extramarital affairs with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal just days before the 2016 election.

Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges and has denied all wrongdoing. His attorney Todd Blanche has argued in pretrial motions that the payments to Cohen were lawful money transfers from Trump’s own personal bank accounts.

“President Trump cannot be said to have falsified business records of the Trump Organization by paying his personal attorney using his personal bank accounts,” Blanche wrote.

The judge overseeing the case, Juan Manuel Merchan, scheduled Thursday’s hearing late last year to resolve pretrial motions and finalize the trial’s start date, which is currently scheduled for March 25.


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