Trump’s hush money trial was set to begin Monday. Here’s what’s happening instead | CNN

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Donald Trump’s first criminal trial was supposed to begin Monday.

Instead, his lawyers will get the chance to argue for a lengthy postponement and even a dismissal of the charges.

Judge Juan Merchan is holding a pre-trial hearing in New York on Monday to discuss the discovery issues that led to the delay of the trial on charges brought by the Manhattan district attorney related to hush money payments until at least the middle of next month.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business documents related to the repayment of Michael Cohen for hush-money payments made before the 2016 election to cover up an alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied the affair.

If the trial starts in April, it would be the first of Trump’s four criminal trials to begin – and potentially the only one that would occur before the November election.

Here’s what to know:

The trial was postponed and Monday’s hearing was ordered after more than 100,000 new documents were turned over by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, related to the 2018 prosecution of Trump’s former lawyer Cohen, who is a key witness in the case.

Trump’s lawyers say the new information is potentially exculpatory for the former president and they need at least 90 days to properly review the new material – a delay that fits with the former president’s overall efforts to delay all four criminal trials he’s facing until after the November election.

Merchan said the trial postponement would be 30 days from the date of his letter, March 15, meaning the earliest the trial could start is April 15.

The judge made clear that the hearing would only focus on the document production from the Southern District of New York, and not other issues such as the complaint from Trump’s lawyers that a new documentary about Daniels was intended to be released close to the start of trial to prejudice the jury pool.

The documents in question relate to the 2018 federal investigation into Cohen that led to charges on campaign finance violations and tax evasion.

The bulk of the documents include records relied upon to obtain search warrants for Cohen’s devices and homes, including bank records. The US attorney’s office also turned over 30,000 pages related to documents seized from five iPhones and email accounts associated with Cohen.

In addition, prosecutors said the US attorney’s office turned over FBI interview notes from special counsel Robert Mueller’s interviews with Cohen, which the office only received in December as a result of Freedom of Information Act litigation.

In all, more than 200,000 pages of records this month were handed over.

Trump’s attorneys and prosecutors are pointing fingers at one another over the reason the US attorney’s office did not turn over tens of thousands of documents until this month.

Trump’s team alleged that the district attorney was trying to hide exculpatory evidence ahead of the trial, and that the US attorney’s office only turned it over following a January subpoena from Trump’s attorneys.

But the district attorney says that Trump’s attorneys are to blame for the delay. Prosecutors argue that Trump’s attorneys raised no issues with the document production made in July 2023 until six months later with the January subpoena.

“The belated nature of the recent productions is entirely a result of defendant’s own inexplicable and strategic delay in identifying perceived deficiencies in the People’s disclosures and pursuing independent means to obtain that evidence,” prosecutors wrote in a filing.

The effort to dismiss the indictment is likely a long shot – Merchan has already rejected previous motions for dismissal.

But the judge could signal on Monday whether he thinks the delay he put in place is long enough to go through the new documents – and whether he might block any testimony.

Merchan, has already ruled that he would allow testimony from Cohen, rejecting a motion from Trump to prevent him from testifying because of credibility problems. And, he said Daniels could testify finding that she is part of the timeline.

A trial is expected to last six weeks, meaning Trump would be in the courtroom four days a week while it’s ongoing (the court will not meet on Wednesdays).


Read More: Trump’s hush money trial was set to begin Monday. Here’s what’s happening instead | CNN

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