Donald Trump to stand trial in criminal hush money case next month

Former US president is charged with falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 payment to adult performer Stormy Daniels.

Former President Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump faces four criminal cases as he runs a third time for the highest US government office ([Bryan Woolston/AP]

A New York judge has denied former United States President Donald Trump’s request to dismiss criminal charges in connection with claims that he paid hush money to adult performer Stormy Daniels.

Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination and likely opponent of President Joe Biden in the November election, asked Judge Juan Manuel Merchan to throw out a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records to cover up the $130,000 payment to Daniels before the 2016 election, which Trump won.

But Merchan said on Thursday that the trial will proceed with jury selection on March 25 despite Trump’s pleas.

He said he made the decision after speaking with the judge in Trump’s now-delayed federal election interference case in Washington.

Trump, who entered the courthouse ahead of the hearing, repeated his claims that the case was politically motivated.

“They wouldn’t have brought this except for the fact – no way – except for the fact that I’m running for president and doing well,” he said in a hallway outside the courtroom.

A blonde woman leans slightly, looking into the camera
A payment to adult film actor Stormy Daniels is at the centre of the hush-money case in New York [File: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters]

The Manhattan case centres on a payment that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen made to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, to prevent her from publicly speaking ahead of the 2016 election about a sexual encounter she had with Trump a decade earlier – which Trump denies happened.

Cohen pleaded guilty to breaching federal campaign laws in 2018.

Prosecutors accuse Trump of seeking to cover up violations of a state law that prohibits promoting a candidacy by unlawful means.

Trump’s lawyers have argued that state prosecutors may not use his alleged cover-up to justify the false records charges and that state law does not apply to federal elections.

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(Al Jazeera)

Over the past year, Trump has lashed out at Merchan as a “Trump-hating judge”, asked him to step down from the case and sought to move the case from state court to federal court, without success.

Merchan has previously acknowledged making several small donations to Democrats, including $15 to Biden, but he’s confident of his “ability to be fair and impartial” to Trump, a Republican.

In a separate court hearing on Thursday, Trump’s lawyers will ask a Georgia judge to disqualify the prosecutor who charged him and several allies for trying to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state.

Trump’s political and legal challenges increasingly overlap ahead of his expected rematch with Biden in November.

He faces federal charges in Washington over his efforts to overturn his election loss and in Florida over mishandling classified documents.

He has pleaded not guilty in all of the cases.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies