Donald Trump trial date set for porn star hush money claims

Donald Trump trial date set for porn star hush money claims

Former US president Donald Trump will stand trial starting April 15 over criminal charges relating to alleged hush money payments to cover up an affair.

The decision from a New York judge means it is the first of four criminal cases against Trump to reach trial, despite his efforts to have the case postponed.

The trial, initially set for Monday, had been in limbo after a last-minute release of documents caused a postponement of the original date.

The case centres on hush-money payments made in 2016 to two women who alleged that they had extramarital encounters with Trump, who has denied their accounts of his infidelity.

Setting jury selection for April 15, Justice Juan Merchan dismissed claims by Trump’s legal team of “prosecutorial misconduct," over the release of tens of thousands of pages of records from a federal probe.

Prosecutors said only a handful of those newly released records were relevant to the case, while defence lawyers contended that thousands of pages are potentially important and require a painstaking review.

Donald Trump comments as he leaves the pre-trial hearing (AP)
Donald Trump comments as he leaves the pre-trial hearing (AP)

Justice Merchan ruled Trump "will not suffer any prejudice" from the recent provision of material and the prosecutors who turned it over were not at fault.

Outside the courtroom, Trump complained about the ruling, characterising the case as an act of "election interference" in the midst of his presidential campaign.

"This is a case that could have been brought three and a half years ago,” he said.

“And now they're fighting over days because they want to try and do it during the election. This is election interference. That's all it is. Election interference and it's a disgrace.”

The hearing took place on a consequential day for Trump's legal affairs, with a New York appeals court separately agreeing to hold off collection of his $454 million civil fraud judgement.

In that case, Trump - the likely Republican challenger to Joe Biden in November’s presidential election - was found to have deceived banks and insurers for years by inflating his wealth on financial statements used to secure loans and make deals.

In two other prosecutions, he is charged with conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and illegally retaining classified documents.

Prosecutors allege that Trump falsely logged $130,000 in payments as legal fees in his company's books, which actually went to Michael Cohen, Trump's then-personal attorney.

Prosecutors say this was to reimburse him for money he had paid porn actor Stormy Daniels on Trump's behalf, so she wouldn't publicise her claim of a sexual encounter with him years earlier.

Trump's lawyers say the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses, not ‘hush money’.

Mr Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges, including campaign finance violations related to the Daniels payoff.