Trump to Attend Hearing in ‘Hush Money’ Case in New York

Former President Donald Trump plans to attend a New York court hearing in a case that accuses him of falsifying business records to hide ‘hush money’ payments.
Trump to Attend Hearing in ‘Hush Money’ Case in New York
Former President Donald Trump arrives for an arraignment hearing at NYS Supreme Court, in New York, on April 4, 2023. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Tom Ozimek
2/13/2024
Updated:
2/13/2024
0:00

Former President Donald Trump’s attorney said that the former president plans to attend Thursday’s court hearing in New York City in a case that accuses him of falsifying business records to hide so-called “hush money” payments.

“President Trump will be attending court in New York on Thursday,” President Trump’s attorney in a separate case in Georgia, Steve Sadow, said in a statement to some media outlets.

Mr. Sadow’s remarks appear to put to rest rumors that the former president was planning to travel to Georgia on Thursday to sit in on a hearing that could result in the disqualification of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from the former president’s election interference case in Georgia if it’s proved she financially benefited from a romantic relationship with her top prosecutor.
Ms. Willis, a Democrat, admitted in a Feb. 2 court filing that she and Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor she appointed to prosecute President Trump, are in a personal relationship, though she denied it led to any financial benefit.

Michael Roman, President Trump’s co-defendant in the election interference case brought by Ms. Willis, has alleged that Mr. Wade paid for vacations with Ms. Willis using Fulton County funds that his private law firm received.

Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade have been subpoenaed to testify during a hearing set for Thursday by Fulton County Judge Scott McAffee, during which he’ll hear arguments on the matter, including whether the relationship resulted in financial gain for the pair.

President Trump has been sharply critical of Ms. Willis, calling her and the case “totally compromised” after Mr. Roman’s attorney accused Ms. Willis of being involved in an “improper” romantic relationship with Mr. Wade and benefiting financially.

The former president has denied any wrongdoing in the case, in which he faces criminal charges for allegedly conspiring to overturn the presidential election results in Georgia.

While it was rumored that President Trump would attend Thursday’s hearing in Fulton County that will see Ms. Willis on the hot seat, his attorney’s statement indicates the former president will instead head to New York for a court hearing in a different case.

New York Hearing

In the so-called “hush money” case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted President Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records in order to conceal $130,000 in payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for keeping quiet about their alleged affair.
President Trump has denied the affair and any wrongdoing while calling the case a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

The former president is due in court in Manhattan on Feb. 15 for a pretrial hearing where final details about the trial are expected to be ironed out.

President Trump’s attorneys have asked the judge in the hush money case to postpone the scheduled March 25 trial start date, but so far, Judge Juan Merchan of the New York Supreme Court has resisted such calls.

President Trump has objected to the March 25 trial date because it falls in the middle of the primary season, with the former president being the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination.

“Just had New York County Supreme Court hearing where I believe my First Amendment rights, ‘Freedom of Speech,’ have been violated, and they forced upon us a trial date of March 25, right in the middle of Primary season,” President Trump wrote in a May 23, 2023 post on Truth Social following a decision by Judge Merchan to impose a gag order barring him from disclosing discovery materials in the case to the public.

“Very unfair, but this is exactly what the Radical Left Democrats wanted,” President Trump continued. “It’s called election interference, and nothing like this has ever happened in our country before!!!”

Former President Donald Trump speaks to a crowd during a campaign rally in Summerville, S.C., on Sept. 25, 2023. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump speaks to a crowd during a campaign rally in Summerville, S.C., on Sept. 25, 2023. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Signs point to the New York case starting on time, with President Trump’s attorneys and prosecutors already discussing jury selection procedures with the judge, according to The Associated Press and other outlets.
If the New York trial does start on time, it stands to make history as the first criminal trial ever of a former U.S. president.

What’s the Case About?

Following President Trump’s arraignment in April 2023, the 16-page indictment and 13-page statement of facts allege that he falsified records related to multiple payments made to prevent the surfacing of negative information about him.

President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, said he made $130,000 in a number of separate payments to Stormy Daniels via a shell company that was then reimbursed by President Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, and recorded as legal expenses.

Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to violating campaign finance law in connection with the payments. In his plea deal, Mr. Cohen claimed he made the payments at President Trump’s direction and that he was reimbursed by President Trump’s company, even though he earlier claimed he paid the money out of his own pocket.

President Trump’s defense attorneys have signaled they intend to focus on the fact that Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to undermine his testimony.

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, leaves federal court after his sentencing in New York, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Craig Ruttle/AP)
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, leaves federal court after his sentencing in New York, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Craig Ruttle/AP)

A felony falsifying records charge that Mr. Bragg has charged President Trump with requires a prosecutor to prove that it was done to hide the commission of a second crime.

Under New York state law, falsifying business records by itself is a misdemeanor, but if the records fraud was used to cover up or commit another crime, the charge could be elevated to a felony.

A number of legal experts have challenged the validity of Mr. Bragg’s move to elevate the falsifying business records misdemeanor into a felony charge.

Alan Dershowitz, a professor who taught at Harvard Law School for nearly 50 years, expressed skepticism of the legal grounds supporting Mr. Bragg’s case.
Similarly, former U.S. Attorney General William Barr has criticized the indictment, calling it a “disgrace” and a “political hit job.”

Mr. Barr said that Mr. Bragg seemed to have ginned up a technical misdemeanor into a felony, adding that this was something that federal prosecutors had earlier chosen not to prosecute as a campaign violation.

“So for the state DA to try to use this as a way of bootstrapping himself into a felony is sort of outrageous,” Mr. Barr said in an interview at the National Review Institute Ideas Summit.

“Judging from the news reports … it’s the archetypal abuse of the prosecutorial function to engage in a political hit job, and it’s a disgrace.”

Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.
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