NYC judge delays Trump’s hush money trial, says ‘significant questions of fact’ must be resolved

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Donald Trump’s trial related to a hush money payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels was pushed back on Friday by the presiding judge who said “significant questions of fact” must be resolved before the former president’s historic Manhattan case moves forward.

“As evidenced by [Trump’s] most recent letter filed this afternoon, there are significant questions of fact which this court must resolve before it may rule on” his efforts to get the case tossed, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan wrote, adjourning the trial by about three weeks.

The judge told the parties to come to court on March 25, when the trial was slated to begin, to address a dispute related to old records tied to Michael Cohen’s case. The trial’s anticipated star witness was convicted in 2018 when federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York first investigated the notorious hush money scheme.

The old filings related to Trump’s former fixer turned nemesis have altered the timeline for what’s set to be his first criminal case of four to make it to trial.

Trump’s defense team subpoenaed the records in January and have claimed what they’ve received so far contains evidence impeaching Cohen and should buy them a three-month delay.

In March 8 filings made public Thursday, Trump’s lawyers said prosecutors should have obtained the records last year when they requested evidence from the feds while preparing their case. They accused them of instead cherry-picking favorable material and declining to procure anything that could be helpful to the defense. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office is expected to respond to the prosecutorial misconduct allegations in court filings on Monday.

Bragg’s office, which consented to a 30-day delay of the trial Thursday, says the 104,000 documents produced so far are largely irrelevant, which is why they were never requested. Prosecutors said they requested relevant material last year, some of which they said the feds “declined to provide.” Still, they noted that Trump didn’t take issue with what they did get until the eve of trial, jibing with the former president’s dogged attempts to delay his many cases.

In a letter to the court Friday, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche — who has also asked Judge Merchan to dismiss the Trump case altogether — asked the jurist to hold a hearing to determine whether prosecutors should face sanctions or the case should be tossed before setting a trial date.

“[There] are disputed issues of fact regarding the [DA’s] obligation to obtain and produce these materials much earlier,” Blanche wrote. “[Federal prosecutors] should be permitted to address the extraordinarily serious claim by [the DA] that [federal prosecutors] wrongfully withheld” relevant evidence from Cohen’s case.

In granting Blanche’s request for a hearing, Merchan ordered each side to file a “detailed timeline” of the events surrounding the Cohen docs, including all correspondence between Bragg’s office, the feds, and Trump’s lawyers. He said he’d set a trial date “if necessary” after resolving the dispute.

“The requested documents are necessary for this court to properly assess who, if anyone, is at fault for the late production of the documents,” the judge wrote, “and what sanction(s) if any, are appropriate.

A spokesman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams declined to comment, as did Blanche and Bragg’s office.

When Cohen pleaded guilty to his role in the hush money scheme, the feds notoriously implicated Trump in the case as “Individual-1,” but declined to bring charges against Trump per a Justice Department policy against prosecuting a sitting president.

Cohen admitted he paid Daniels to stay silent about an alleged extramarital tryst with Trump “in coordination and at the direction” of the then-2016 presidential candidate and lied to Congress about Trump’s business dealings with Russia out of loyalty, among other crimes. He served a three-year sentence.

Following a yearslong Trump investigation that he inherited, Bragg last spring filed 34 felony counts against Trump in the state courts alleging he hid reimbursement to Cohen for the payoff to Daniels once in the White House to disguise the underlying hush money scheme, which also included payments to Playboy model Karen McDougal and a doorman at Trump Tower.

The Republican presidential nominee has pleaded not guilty to 91 felonies in four criminal matters and claims he’s the victim of a witch hunt. The trial timeline is unclear in his three other criminal cases — accusing him of plotting to overthrow the 2020 election and mishandling stolen classified documents — with his appeals bogging down the process.