Trump hush-money trial set for March 25 as decisions in three cases collide

New York judge says jury selection in former president's case will go ahead as scheduled

Former US president Donald Trump arrives at the New York State Supreme Court on Thursday. Bloomberg
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Former US president Donald Trump’s hush-money trial will go ahead as scheduled, with jury selection starting on March 25, a judge ruled on Thursday.

In leaving the trial date intact, Judge Juan Manuel Merchan, presiding over the court in New York, took advantage of a delay in a prosecution in Washington charging Mr Trump with plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

That case has been effectively on hold pending the outcome of an appeal.

The New York case centres on years-old accusations that Mr Trump falsified business records relating to a $130,000 payment made by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to adult film star Stormy Daniels, to keep her quiet about an alleged affair shortly before he won the 2016 election.

The charges in the case are punishable by up to four years in prison, although there is no guarantee any conviction would result in jail time.

It is the first of the four criminal prosecutions against him to proceed to trial.

Jason Brahm, a Brooklyn resident, expressed his support for the Democratic Party and voiced his opposition to Mr Trump's 2024 presidential candidacy over the criminal charges against him, and his policies.

“This man should be in jail," Mr Brahm told The National.

In other cases, Mr Trump is charged with seeking to undo the election results and illegally hoarding classified documents at his Florida estate.

Mel Richards, a UK national visiting her son, was surprised that a US presidential candidate could be faced with so many criminal and civil cases.

“It worries me a great deal because, what does it mean for one of the greatest nations of the world to have a president who has all of those questions hanging over him?” Ms Richards said.

Mr Trump's legal team criticised the decision to keep the March date, saying he will have to stand trial in New York at the same time that he is trying to clinch the Republican nomination.

He made his first return visit to court in the New York case since a historic indictment made him the first former president charged with a crime.

Donald Trump’s legal woes – in pictures

Since then, he has also been indicted in Florida, Georgia and Washington.

In recent weeks, he has combined campaign events with court appearances, on Monday attending a closed hearing in a Florida case charging him with hoarding classified records.

The recent postponement of a March 4 trial date in Mr Trump’s Washington election interference case removed a major hurdle to starting the New York case on time.

As that hearing was getting under way, a judge in Atlanta heard arguments over whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis should be disqualified from Mr Trump’s Georgia election interference case because of a “personal relationship” with Nathan Wade, a special prosecutor she hired for the case.

Mr Trump is also awaiting a decision, possibly as early as Friday, in a New York civil fraud case that could upend his property empire.

If the judge rules against Mr Trump, who is accused of falsely inflating his wealth to defraud banks, insurers and others, he could be subject to millions of dollars in penalties, among other sanctions.

The legal developments also come as he awaits key decisions from the US Supreme Court.

There, justices heard arguments last week in a Colorado case over whether he can be banned from the November ballot by states that determine he engaged in an insurrection by trying to overturn the 2020 election results.

The High Court is also considering Mr Trump’s request to keep the federal election case against him on hold while he seeks to overturn a ruling that he does not have presidential immunity from criminal charges.

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Updated: February 15, 2024, 7:39 PM