10 Apr 2024

Trump loses bid to delay hush money trial pending gag order appeal

5:58 am on 10 April 2024
Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump speaks in the library at Mar-a-Lago on March 4, 2024 in Palm Beach, Florida. The US Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Trump can appear on this year's presidential ballot in all states.

File photo. Donald Trump has lost a second last-ditch bid to delay his 15 April trial on criminal charges stemming from hush money paid to a porn star. Photo: ALON SKUY / AFP

By Luc Cohen, Reuters

Donald Trump on Tuesday lost his second last-ditch bid in as many days to delay his 15 April trial on criminal charges stemming from hush money paid to a porn star.

The former US president's lawyers argued at a hearing in a mid-level state appeals court that the trial should be delayed to give him a chance to challenge a gag order in the case.

Associate Justice Cynthia Kern swiftly denied the delay request, but a full panel of appeals judges will later consider the Republican presidential candidate's underlying challenge to the gag order.

Trump's lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A separate judge on Monday denied Trump's request to delay the trial while he tries to move the case out of heavily Democratic Manhattan. His lawyers said a survey of Manhattan residents they conducted showed 61 percent of respondents thought Trump was guilty and 70 percent had a negative opinion of him.

At Tuesday's hearing, Trump's lawyer Emil Bove said Justice Juan Merchan's order restricting his public comments should be modified to let him respond to public criticism leveled by potential witnesses in the case.

"The First Amendment harms arising from this gag order right now are irreparable," Bove said.

Merchan imposed the order last month barring Trump from verbal attacks on potential witnesses, court staff and individual prosecutors after finding he made statements in various legal cases that the judge called "threatening, inflammatory" and "denigrating."

The judge expanded the order to cover his relatives and those of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg after Trump disparaged Merchan's daughter online.

The order does not restrict Trump's speech about Merchan or Bragg.

Steven Wu, a lawyer with Bragg's office, said at Tuesday's Appellate Division hearing that the trial should not be delayed since Trump's lawyers could have made the appeal earlier.

He also said his office had to increase security due to Trump's statements, and that potential witnesses were reluctant to testify because of Trump's comments.

"They know what their names in the press may lead to," Wu said. "This is a pattern of misconduct that causes predictable, terrifying consequences."

Trump is accused of covering up his former lawyer Michael Cohen's US$130,000 (NZ$219,000) payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence before the 2016 presidential election about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump a decade earlier.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records and denied any such encounter with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

The case is one of four criminal indictments Trump faces as he prepares to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in their 5 November US election rematch. He has sought to delay proceedings in all cases until after the election, and the hush money case is the only one with a firm trial date.

The other cases stem from his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden and his handling of sensitive government documents after leaving the presidency in 2021. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

- This story was first published by Reuters.

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