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Trump, in hush money trial, won’t use ‘advice of counsel’ defense — but will still argue lawyers were involved

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(NEW YORK) — Attorneys for Donald Trump say they will not invoke a formal “advice of counsel” defense when the former president is put on trial later this month for allegedly falsifying business records in New York, but they signaled in a court filing on Tuesday that Trump will argue he did not intend to break the law “because of his awareness that various lawyers were involved.”


Trump’s defense team faced a deadline this week to notify the court if they planned to assert an advice of counsel defense at the trial, which is scheduled to begin March 25.

According to the filing, defense lawyers will argue that “President Trump lacked the requisite intent to commit the conduct charged in the Indictment because of his awareness that various lawyers were involved in the underlying conduct giving rise to the charges.”

An advice of counsel defense would require that Trump prove he acted on the advice of lawyers — including proving he fully disclosed his actions to lawyers, asked for advice, learned his conduct was legal, and acted in good faith — when he paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in hush money through his then-attorney, Michael Cohen, just days before the 2016 election. Prosecutors allege that Trump then falsified New York business records to cover up that alleged criminal conduct.

Prosecutors have argued that although it was a lawyer, Cohen, who coordinated the payments at the center of the case, the alleged scheme was long part of the Trump playbook to conceal potentially damaging information.

According to Tuesday’s filing, Trump’s defense lawyers want to instead argue that Trump was generally aware that lawyers were involved in the payments and lacked any intent to break the law.

“President Trump intends to elicit these facts from witnesses, including former AMI executives and Michael Cohen, whom we expect will testify about President Trump’s awareness of counsel’s involvement in the charged conduct. This is not a formal advice-of-counsel defense,” the filing said.

Defense lawyers flagged that the defense plans might change depending on who is called as a witness at trial and what evidence the judge permits.

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