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Trump’s New York hush money case is set for trial April 15.

Trump’s New York hush money case is set for trial April 15.

The first of Donald Trump’s four criminal trials will begin April 15, a Manhattan judge ruled Monday after tearing into the former president’s lawyers for what he said were unfounded claims that the hush-money case had been tainted by prosecutorial misconduct.

Judge Juan M. Merchan scoffed at the defense’s calls to delay the case longer or throw it out entirely because of a last-minute document dump that had bumped the first-ever trial of a former president from its scheduled Monday start. Trump vowed to appeal the ruling.

Barring another delay, the presumptive Republican nominee will be on trial as a criminal defendant in just three weeks — an inauspicious homecoming in the city where he grew up, built a real estate empire and gained wealth and celebrity that propelled him to the White House.

The trial, involving allegations related to hush money paid during Trump’s 2016 campaign to cover up marital infidelity claims, had been in limbo after his lawyers complained about a recent deluge of nearly 200,000 pages of evidence from a previous federal investigation into the matter.

Trump’s lawyers accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office of intentionally failing to pursue evidence from the 2018 federal investigation, which sent Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen to prison. They contended prosecutors working under Bragg, a Democrat, did so to gain an unfair advantage in the case and harm Trump’s election chances. Cohen, now a vocal Trump critic, is poised to be a key prosecution witness against his ex-boss.

 

Merchan bristled at the defense’s claims at a hearing Monday, saying the DA’s office had no duty to collect evidence from the federal investigation, nor was the U.S. attorney’s office required to volunteer the documents. What transpired was a “far cry” from Manhattan prosecutors “injecting themselves in the process and vehemently and aggressively trying to obstruct your ability to get documentation,” the judge said.

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“It’s just not what happened,” Merchan said.

Merchan grew impatient, pressing Trump lawyer Todd Blanche to cite even a single legal precedent for his argument.

When the lawyer couldn’t, the judge laid into him, saying: “You’re literally accusing the Manhattan DA’s office and the people assigned to this case of engaging in prosecutorial misconduct and of trying to make me complicit in it. And you don’t have a single cite to support that position.”

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo said the number of relevant, usable, new documents in the recently provided evidence “is quite small” — around 300 records or fewer. Trump’s lawyers contend thousands of pages are potentially important and require painstaking review. They argued the delayed disclosures warranted dismissing the case or at least pushing it off three months.

“We are not doing our jobs if we don’t independently look at the new material,” Blanche told the judge. “Every document is important.”

The DA’s office denied wrongdoing and blamed Trump’s lawyers for bringing the time crunch upon themselves by waiting until Jan. 18 to subpoena the records from the U.S. attorney’s office — a mere nine weeks before the trial was originally supposed to start. Merchan, who earlier this month postponed the trial until at least mid-April to deal with the evidence issue, told defense lawyers that they should have acted sooner if they believed they didn’t have all the records they wanted.

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