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Trump lawyers seek delay in Stormy Daniels hush money case, cite more documents

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) –Donald Trump‘s lawyers sought a delay on Monday in the former president’s New York state criminal trial over hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels, disclosing that new federal documents had emerged.

They disclosed the documents at a hearing in a New York courtroom where his lawyers asked a judge to dismiss or delay the trial.

The documents include prior statements Daniels previously made to the FBI, Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche told Justice Juan Merchan. It was not immediately clear how many documents would be handed over.

Merchan began the hearing by reading from the lawyers’ motion accusing prosecutors of deliberately withholding potential evidence about witness Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer and lawyer, for too long.

“We are not actively suppressing or suppressing in any way discoverable or otherwise impeachable materials,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said at the hearing.

“This is a witch hunt, This is a hoax,” Trump, wearing a blue suit and his customary red tie, told reporters before the cameras. “Thank you very much, everybody.”

It was all he said before entering the courtroom.

There, he spoke with his lawyer Susan Necheles before the hearing began. He sat with his hands clasped, hunched over the defense table as the hearing began.

His lawyers have argued a delay is needed because prosecutors turned over thousands of pages about Cohen only weeks ago.

Cohen 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 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 U.S. 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 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 president. Trump, the Republican candidate to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 election, has pleaded not guilty and called the case a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

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, D.C., over the 2020 election efforts as he pursued an appeal on presidential immunity grounds. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in that case on April 25.

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.

“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 Feb. 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.”

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Howard Goller)

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