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US: New York judge says Trump hush money case will proceed

February 15, 2024

The judge said former President Donald Trump's hush money trial will begin with jury selection on March 25. Trump has claimed the case is politically motivated ahead of the 2024 election.

Donald Trump speaking outside the courtroom
Donald Trump was present in court in Manhattan for one of four criminal cases that he now facesImage: Mary Altaffer/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Donald Trump's hush money trial will go ahead as scheduled after a judge on Thursday threw out his request to dismiss the criminal charges.

Justice Juan Merchan set a trial date of March 25 for the case, which relates to money that the former US president allegedly paid to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

"Given all the information I have before me, we are moving ahead to jury selection on March 25," the judge said.

Trump repeated unfounded claims that the case brought against him is politically motivated.

"They wouldn't have brought this except for the fact — no way — except for the fact that I'm running for president and doing well," Trump said in a hallway outside the Manhattan courtroom.

The front-runner in the Republican primaries also faces three other criminal cases. He is likely to face off in a rematch against current Democratic President Joe Biden in the November presidential election

What would a second Trump presidency look like?

Why Trump could still be elected president even if convicted

Although the case is expected to influence the presidential election later this year, the trial and criminal charges have no bearing on whether or not Trump is actually allowed to hold office.

"The motion to dismiss was based on the argument of selective prosecution and a second argument that they had this evidence and they kind of sat on it, those are not likely to win an appeal," John Culhane, a professor at Widener University Delaware Law School, told DW.

"But more importantly, these cannot be appealed until after the jury reaches a verdict. And assuming that verdict is a conviction, that's when the appeal would be appropriate. So there's no appeal right now that could be lodged."

"In theory, he could be elected and he could serve as president even if he's in prison," Culhane said.

"And of course, if that were the case, it would be up to the the Congress to impeach him. That would be the only way to get him out of office."

What is the Stormy Daniels case about?

Prosecutors allege that Trump illegally falsified business records to hide hush money paid to former adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 (€120,000) to keep quiet about an alleged affair and paid $150,000 to a New York tabloid to buy, but not publish, a story from former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

The Trumo Organization then reimbursed Cohen and logged the payments as legal expenses to hide the true nature of the payments, prosecutors said.

Cohen pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws in 2018.

Trump now faces 34 counts of accounting fraud.

His legal team has argued that no crime was committed and Trump also denies he had an affair with Daniels.

zc/wd (AP, Reuters, AFP)