Judge Delays Trump’s Hush-Money Criminal Trial, Citing Late Evidence Dump

new york — Donald Trump’s New York hush-money criminal trial was delayed Friday until at least mid-April as the judge seeks answers about a last-minute evidence dump that the former president’s lawyers said has hampered their ability to prepare their defense. 

Manhattan Judge Juan Manuel Merchan agreed to a 30-day delay starting Friday and scheduled a hearing for March 25 after Trump’s lawyers complained that they only recently started receiving more than 100,000 pages of documents from a previous federal investigation into the matter. 

Merchan said he was holding the hearing to determine whether prosecutors should face sanctions or whether the case should be dismissed, as Trump’s lawyers have requested. 

The trial had been scheduled to start March 25. The delay means the trial would start no earlier than April 15. Prosecutors had said they wouldn’t object to a short delay. 

In a letter Friday, Merchan told Manhattan prosecutors and Trump’s defense team that he wanted to assess “who, if anyone, is at fault for the late production of the documents,” whether it hurt either side and whether any sanctions were warranted. 

The judge demanded a timeline of events detailing when the documents were requested and when they were turned over. He also wants all correspondence between the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is prosecuting Trump, and the U.S. attorney’s office, which previously investigated the matter in 2018. 

The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche also declined to comment. 

Merchan’s decision upended what had been on track to be the first of Trump’s four criminal indictments to go to trial. Trump, the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee, has fought to delay all of his criminal cases, arguing that he shouldn’t be forced into a courtroom while he should be on the campaign trail. 

Trump’s lawyers wanted a 90-day delay, which would’ve pushed the start of the trial into the early summer, and asked Merchan to dismiss the case entirely. Prosecutors said they were OK with a 30-day adjournment “in an abundance of caution and to ensure that defendant has sufficient time to review the new materials.” 

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

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