Trump to request Stormy Daniels hush money case be either dismissed or delayed

Amid mounting legal woes, former US president’s lawyers ask judge to postpone or reject case, accuse Manhattan DA of withholding documents crucial to their argument

This combination of file photo shows, from left, former US president Donald Trump, attorney Michael Cohen and adult film actress Stormy Daniels. (AP Photo/File)
This combination of file photo shows, from left, former US president Donald Trump, attorney Michael Cohen and adult film actress Stormy Daniels. (AP Photo/File)

NEW YORK, New York (Reuters) — Donald Trump will ask a judge on Monday to delay or dismiss his trial on charges stemming from hush money paid to a porn star, citing thousands of pages of potential evidence about witness Michael Cohen that prosecutors turned over only weeks ago.

Cohen, Trump’s onetime lawyer and fixer, made a $130,000 payment to silence adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election about a sexual encounter she said they had a decade earlier – an encounter Trump denies.

Lawyers for Trump, the former US president, accuse Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office, which brought the criminal charges, of trying to bury documents that could help them challenge Cohen’s credibility.

The documents came from the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan, which previously investigated the payment, but did not charge Trump. Cohen testified that Trump directed him to make the payment and went to prison after pleading guilty to violating campaign finance laws.

Trump’s trial was initially scheduled to start on Monday, but prosecutors consented to a 30-day delay to give Trump time to review the new documents. Trump’s defense is asking Justice Juan Merchan for another delay or for the charges to be thrown out altogether because of the late disclosure.

Merchan’s decision will set the course for what could be the first-ever criminal trial of a former US president. Trump, the Republican candidate to challenge Democratic US President Joe Biden in the November 5 election, has pleaded not guilty and called the case a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks to reporters during a news conference at police headquarters, April 18, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

On Monday morning, Trump said the case should be dismissed.

“No crime,” he wrote on his Truth Social platform.

The case is one of several legal travails Trump, 77, faces as he ramps up his 2024 campaign. He faces a deadline on Monday to cover a $454 million civil fraud judgment for manipulating the values of his real estate holdings to dupe lenders, or risk New York state seizing his properties.

He faces three other criminal cases, which focus on his efforts to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden and his handling of sensitive government documents after leaving office in 2021. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Trump has sought delays in most cases, and successfully pushed back an early March start date to his federal trial in Washington, DC, over the 2020 election efforts as he pursued an appeal on presidential immunity grounds. The US Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in that case on April 25.

File: Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks after voting in the Florida primary election in Palm Beach, Florida, March 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

He has also leveraged his criminal cases to try to raise money from supporters, as he lags Biden in fundraising.

Prosecutors say the payoff to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was part of a broader “catch-and-kill” scheme Cohen and Trump hatched to boost his candidacy by buying the silence of people with damaging information.

Trump’s lawyers say the payment was meant to spare himself and his family embarrassment, not to benefit his successful 2016 campaign.

Defense lawyers subpoenaed federal prosecutors for Cohen’s bank records and phone and email accounts in January, after Merchan denied their request to get some of those materials from Cohen himself.

Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over Donald Trump’s hush money case, poses for a picture in his chambers in New York, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“They sought to obstruct our efforts to collect evidence we are entitled to review and use in connection with our trial defense,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in a February 15 court filing, referring to the state prosecutors.

Prosecutors say no further delay is needed because most of the new documents are irrelevant to the case or duplicates of material Trump already had.

Bragg’s office said it asked the federal prosecutors for information from their case against Cohen and turned the materials over to the defense last June.

“Defendant has taken every possible step to evade accountability in this case,” prosecutors with Bragg’s office wrote in a March 21 court filing. “Enough is enough. These tactics by defendant and defense counsel should be stopped.”

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