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Judge scolds Trump lawyer after poorly-supported — and unsuccessful — bid to delay hush-money trial

A court sketch of Donald Trump in court in Manhattan for a pretrial hearing in his hush money case.
A sketch of Donald Trump in court in Manhattan for a pretrial hearing in his hush-money case.Jane Rosenberg
  • An April 15 date has now been set for Trump's first criminal trial, his Manhattan hush-money case.

  • At a pretrial hearing Monday, Trump watched as his lawyer asked for a long delay.

  • "It's odd that we're even here," the judge told the lawyer, calling his delay bid unsupported.

Donald Trump's lawyer asked a Manhattan judge on Monday to postpone his hush-money trial — but instead of a delay, the lawyer got a verbal drubbing.

"It's odd we're even here," the judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, said at one point in a morning-long pretrial hearing, expressing frustration over Trump's delay bid.

The GOP frontrunner was in court and wore a steely scowl as he watched his lawyer, Todd Blanche, try but fail to convince the judge for two hours that prosecutors had nefariously suppressed trial evidence — and that the judge was somehow complicit.

The defense had asked for the case to be dismissed in its entirety. Short of that, they asked that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and porn actress Stormy Daniels be barred from testifying, and that the trial be delayed by as much as three months.

"It's really disconcerting," the judge scolded Blanche at one point in the hearing.

"It's incredibly serious, unbelievably serious," the judge continued. "You are literally accusing the Manhattan District Attorney's office and the people involved in this case of prosecutorial misconduct and trying to make me complicit in it."

Prosecutors did nothing wrong, the judge said he found, before setting a firm April 15 trial date.

"The people went so far above and beyond what they were required to do that it's odd we're even here," Merchan told Blanche, referring to Manhattan district attorney prosecutors.

Trump's lawyers want to discredit Michael Cohen

Monday's hearing focused on a disagreement over more than 100,000 pages of potential trial evidence that were turned over late in the game, during the first two weeks of March by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

The documents included interview notes, subpoenaed records, and grand jury minutes from the US Attorney's Office 2018 prosecution of Trump's then-personal attorney, Cohen.

The late document dump includes "thousands and thousands of pages" of interview notes between the FBI and Cohen relating to the Mueller Investigation, Blanche complained.

More time was needed to review these alone, he told the judge.

"Is this the Mueller Investigation you're talking about?" the judge responded, sounding angry. "That's not relevant. That has nothing to do with this case," he said.

"I'm telling you," the judge said, in one of the only times in the hearing when anger edged into his voice.

"If you try to introduce something about the Mueller Investigation, it's not coming in."

donald trump manhattan criminal court
Former US President Donald Trump and his lawyer Todd Blanche in a hallway in Manhattan criminal court.BRENDAN MCDERMID/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Cohen, in 2018, pleaded guilty to perjury in charges brought by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller for lying to Congress about Trump's business dealings.

He also pleaded guilty to a separate set of charges, brought by the US Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, for an array of tax and other financial charges.

Cohen is expected to be a key witness in the Manhattan district attorney's office case against Trump. They allege that, with Cohen's help, Trump falsified business records by disguising hush money payments to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Cohen worked as Trump's personal lawyer at the time, as well as a Trump Organization executive.

The judge has previously ruled that evidence relating to other investigations, beyond the hush money case, will not be shown to jurors.

While Manhattan district attorney prosecutors said the vast majority of the documents weren't relevant to the hush-money case, Blanche said he couldn't take them at their word.

"Every document is important," he said

'You decided to wait'

Trump appeared grim-faced as he was escorted into the courtroom by a quintet of Secret Service agents and then took his seat at the defense table.

At times he turned to his lawyers — Susan Necheles to his left and Emil Bove to his right — and appeared to confer angrily.

As Blanche stood and argued before the judge, Trump was seated further to the left of the defense table. He leaned to his left and looked up, like a guest in da Vinci's "Last Supper."

"I did have an opportunity to review all of the records," Merchan said early on, when the tone of the hearing was still light.

"Like you, I wish I had a little more time," Merchan added, turning to Blanche with a smile.

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the judge that he, too, had read through the 100,000 pages.

He said they include "fewer than 300 records" that could arguably be considered trial evidence.

And these were "largely inculpatory," meaning damaging to Trump's case.

That left those sitting at the defense table as the only parties before the judge who had yet to read through the document dump.

At times, the judge appeared to blame Blanche, who previously spent 13 years working as a prosecutor in the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, for not asking for the documents earlier.

Merchan said Blanche "decided to wait until two months before trial" instead of making a request last summer, when he became aware that federal prosecutors had the documents,

"The District Attorney of New York County is not at fault for the late production of documents from the US Attorney's Office," the judge said at the end of the hearing. "They complied, and continue to comply, with their discovery obligations."

The 100,000 pages "were not under the prosecution's possession or control," the judge said.

The judge said he further found "that the Manhattan District attorney made diligent efforts to obtain discoverable evidence," and that all parties will have had "a reasonable amount of time," pretrial, to review and respond to the materials.

"See you on the 15th," the judge said, concluding the hearing.

This story has been updated.

Read the original article on Business Insider