Two judges in separate courts just minutes down the road from each other could deal a severe blow to Donald Trump, his business and his campaign schedule this week.
On Thursday, a Manhattan criminal court judge will preside over a hearing that could set the course for the former president’s trial on charges stemming from hush-money payments to an adult film star in during his 2016 campaign.
The judge presiding over a separate civil fraud trial that could damage his family business and brand-building empire is also expected to issue a final ruling in that case, which has a potential ten million dollars in penalties and the end of his New York real estate career is at stake.
A court official said The Independent that a decision in that case will be finalized in mid-February. Suggested by people familiar with the matter The New York Times that a decision will come a day after Mr Trump’s criminal court date.
The former president, meanwhile, may not be in New York on Thursday. He reportedly plans to visit Atlanta to watch a hearing on allegations of misconduct against the prosecutor who led a wide-ranging criminal case against him in Georgia – accusations raised by Mr Trump and the his allies in an effort to undermine the charges against him.
Mr Trump is relying on a growing stack of cases and court dates on his calendar – which collide with a primary election season as he seeks the Republican Party’s presidential nomination – to cast himself as a victim of ” election interference” and political persecution, while his lawyers. deny wrongdoing or try to claim “immunity” for anything he did as president.
It is unlikely that a federal election conspiracy case against him will move forward on March 4, as initially written, as his repeatedly rejected “immunity” defense heads to the US Supreme Court.
If the New York criminal court date sticks, he will almost certainly stand trial for the first time as a criminal defendant in his hometown.
Judge Juan Merchan tentatively scheduled the trial to begin on March 25.
Mr Trump has already faced two major civil trials in Manhattan this year. A federal jury has determined he owes E Jean Carroll more than $83m for repeatedly defaming him after denying he sexually abused her in the 1990s.
The civil fraud case targeting Mr Trump, his two adult sons and their key business partners also ended last month after 11 weeks of witness testimony. State Attorney General Letitia James, whose blockbuster case sparked a trial in New York County Superior Court on Center Street, is seeking $370m in so-called “ill-gotten gains” and an injunction barring the former president from real estate in the state. industry for life.
Mr Trump began his week in Florida, where he attended closed-door hearings on Monday to review sensitive materials in a federal case stemming from his alleged criminal mishandling of classified documents in his March -a-Lago.
The Manhattan criminal case has largely remained quiet compared to months of court filings and hearings in three other criminal cases against him, and a mountain of litigation that threatens his business and potential disqualification from 2024. ballots – a challenge now before the US Supreme. Court.
The New York case marks the first set of criminal charges against him in what has been a busy year.
In April, a grand jury under Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg indicted the former president on 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with payments to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen, who arranged a hush-money scheme to prevent the release of potentially damaging stories. about Mr Trump and his activities.
Mr Trump has pleaded not guilty.
Mr Trump, Mr Cohen and David Pecker, the former owner of National Enquirerallegedly worked in concert to “identify, purchase, and bury negative information” about then-candidate Trump to boost his electoral prospects,” according to prosecutors.
The alleged payments were used to cover up sex scandals involving adult film star Stormy Daniels as part of a “conspiracy to undermine the integrity of the 2016 election,” according to prosecutors.
On Thursday, Judge Merchan is expected to rule on Mr.
The court is reportedly relying on developments from the federal election conspiracy case – arguably the most serious against the former president – before firming up a timetable, and Mr Bragg has suggested he will not stand in the way. to try to move forward.
Hours after the hearing, Mr Trump is expected to face a damaging final ruling in the fraud case, which his lawyers are likely to appeal immediately.
Judge Engoron’s pretrial ruling found Mr Trump and his co-defendants liable for fraud, leaving a trial to determine what, if any, penalties they will face.
The judge had originally planned to issue his final decision at the end of January, but a series of late violations in the case developments surrounding one of the defendants’ potential perjury during his testimony seems to reject that schedule.
Last month, a court-appointed monitor tapped to oversee his businesses reported financial disclosures that were “incomplete, inconsistent results,” or “contained errors.”
One of the findings, according to his report, appeared to suggest that the former president avoided taxes on millions of dollars in income by hiding the money in fake loan transactions.
Over the past two weeks, Judge Engoron has asked the parties for “anything” they can tell him about an alleged plea deal arranged between New York City prosecutors and former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg in the charges. perjury connected with his testimony in the fraud trial.
If Weisselberg now “claims that he lied under oath to my court in this trial,” the judge wants to know about it, he wrote to lawyers this month. “I don’t want to take anything for granted in a case of this magnitude.”