Trump seeks delay of hush money trial over 'prejudicial' press coverage, as he slams the case

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks from the hallway outside a courtroom where he is attending a hearing in his criminal case on charges stemming from hush money paid to a porn star in New York City, U.S., March 25, 2024. 

Brendan Mcdermid | Reuters

Attorneys for Donald Trump have asked a judge for a “significant” delay of his fast-approaching criminal hush money trial, arguing the Republican presidential nominee cannot get a fair jury due to “prejudicial pretrial publicity.”

The trial on charges of falsifying business records must adjourn until that press coverage “abates,” Trump’s lawyers wrote last week in a filing in New York Supreme Court.

But in the wake of that request, Trump himself has publicly cast doubt on the integrity of the trial through a torrent of social media posts attacking the presiding judge — and the judge’s adult daughter.

Those posts came after Judge Juan Merchan imposed a gag order barring Trump from speaking about likely witnesses and other figures involved in the case.

The gag order does not explicitly bar Trump from attacking the judge himself. Prosecutors asked Merchan on Thursday to “clarify or confirm” that the order protects family members of the court.

Trump in a slew of recent Truth Social posts has called for Merchan’s recusal from the case, accusing him of political bias. A number of those posts reference Merchan’s daughter’s work for a Democratic political firm, and at least one of them includes her full name and picture.

But in their court filing requesting a trial delay, Trump’s lawyers argued that it was the press, not the former president, tainting the jury pool.

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Citing a survey of 400 New York residents, the attorneys wrote, “It is clear that potential jurors in Manhattan have been exposed to huge amounts of biased and unfair media coverage relating to this case.”

“Many of the potential jurors already wrongfully believe that President Trump is guilty,” their filing said.

They also pointed to a finding in a “media study” that many articles included “prejudicial discussion of other proceedings involving President Trump and inaccurate and irrelevant discussions of alleged sexual misconduct, including false claims regarding ‘rape.'”

Trump, in a separate federal civil trial last year, was found liable for sexually abusing writer E. Jean Carroll in the mid-1990s, then defaming her decades later.

The defense lawyers’ filing also asserted that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has “used strategic leaks” in its prosecution of Trump on charges of falsifying business records to conceal a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

The filing also accused the DA’s office of scheduling the sentencing of former Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg — who last month pleaded guilty to perjury — close to the trial date in a deliberate move to drum up more news coverage.

Weisselberg is set to be sentenced April 10, five days before jury selection begins in the hush money trial.

The filing also argues that the ongoing criticism of Trump by two key trial witnesses — Daniels, and Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen — underscore that he “cannot get a fair trial in New York County right now.”

“Therefore, the Court should adjourn the trial date until the prejudicial media coverage subsides,” the attorneys wrote.

The filing is dated March 18, but it was made public last week after a court hearing on a different bid by Trump to dismiss the indictment or push the trial to a later date.

Merchan in that hearing ordered jury selection to begin April 15 following his rejection of claims by Trump’s attorneys that the DA’s office had violated evidence-sharing rules. But the judge allowed those lawyers to file their motion to adjourn the trial on the grounds of negative press coverage.

“The news media that’s been generated is not a result of President Trump,” defense attorney Todd Blanche said in that hearing.

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo responded that the chance of the trial being delayed due to the media’s coverage is “extremely unlikely.”

Publicity in the case — the first of four criminal cases against Trump to head to trial — won’t subside, Colangelo told the judge.

The prosecutor also noted that that intense media coverage “has been caused and exacerbated” by Trump.

Merchan gave the DA’s office one week to file its full response.

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