Trump Hush-Money Trial Faces Delay Over Evidence Dispute

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s first criminal trial might not begin on March 25 as planned, after evidence sought by the former president related to the case’s star witness was allegedly handed over too late.

Most Read from Bloomberg

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said Thursday that they had just received some 31,000 pages of records tied to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who is expected to testify at trial. Those records relate to a parallel federal case against Cohen, whose dealings with Trump are at the center of the hush-money prosecution.

Trump was set to go to trial in Manhattan in two weeks for allegedly falsifying business records to conceal hush money paid to a porn star before the 2016 election.

Lawyers in Bragg’s office said they would be open to a 30-day delay in the start of the trial to accommodate Trump. The former president, citing 73,000 new pages of records produced by federal prosecutors since March 4, is seeking a 90-day delay. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche also asked the judge to dismiss the indictment, citing the violations in turning over the evidence. The judge hasn’t yet ruled on the requests.

The potential delay is the latest good news in court for Trump, who had faced the prospect of as many as four criminal trials before the November presidential election. The presumptive Republican nominee has denied wrongdoing in all of the cases.

New Evidence

Bragg blamed Trump for the delay of the production of documents, saying the defense didn’t raise concerns about the sufficiency of the evidence and waited until Jan. 18 to issue a subpoena for more materials.

“The timing of the USAO’s productions is a result solely of defendant’s delay despite the People’s diligence,” Bragg said in the filing.

Prosecutors also said the material turned over by federal prosecutors was “largely irrelevant to the subject matter” of the hush-money case.

The evidence relates to Cohen’s guilty plea in 2018 to violating campaign finance laws in a case brought by the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan. Trump’s team sought to use that evidence for his defense in this trial and had requested that it be handed over. Federal prosecutors initially produced a batch of evidence in 2023. Trump then subpoenaed more documents in January, resulting in the latest disclosure.

Cohen’s guilty plea related to the hush-money payment, which federal prosecutors concluded was an illegal campaign contribution. Bragg’s case against Trump related to the former president’s alleged falsification of business records when he repaid Cohen in 2017 and claimed they were for legal fees.

Bragg’s office said federal prosecutors had “previously declined” to turn over some of their evidence and only on Wednesday produced 31,000 additional pages, including material that appears relevant to the hush-money case, as a result of the Trump subpoenas. More evidence is expected to drop in the next week, according to Bragg.

Trial Delays

The timing of Trump’s cases has come into focus as he seeks reelection in November. While he once faced the possibility of four separate trials leading up to the election, three of the cases might slip into next year.

A federal trial over his attempt to overturn the 2020 election was supposed to start earlier this month, but it was put on hold to give the US Supreme Court time to weigh Trump’s claim to presidential immunity. A trial over his handling of classified documents that was set for May was called off due to other delays and hasn’t been rescheduled.

Meanwhile, a state case in Georgia over the 2020 election has been hobbled over claims that the district attorney who brought the case has a conflict of interest, and has not yet been set for trial.

Trump has also asked the New York court to delay the hush-money trial until after the US Supreme Court decides his claim he has presidential immunity and can’t be prosecuted. Bragg’s office meanwhile asked the judge to be allowed to file their response on Monday.

A spokesman for New York state judge Juan Merchan didn’t have an immediate comment.

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump said, “President Trump and his counsel have been consistent and steadfast that this case has no basis in law or fact, and should be dismissed. Today, after conceding serious discovery violations, the Manhattan DA agreed to an adjournment. We will continue to fight to end this hoax, and all of the other Crooked Joe Biden-directed Witch Hunts, once and for all.”

--With assistance from Greg Farrell.

(Updates with DA seeking time to address immunity claim. An earlier version corrected the spelling of Trump spokesman’s name.)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.