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Judge declines to delay Trump’s hush money trial

ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Former President Donald Trump speaks before entering the courtroom at Manhattan criminal court, Feb. 15, in New York. A dozen Manhattan residents are soon to become the first Americans ever to sit in judgment of a former president charged with a crime. Jury selection is set to start Monday in former President Donald Trump’s hush-money trial.
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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Former President Donald Trump speaks before entering the courtroom at Manhattan criminal court, Feb. 15, in New York. A dozen Manhattan residents are soon to become the first Americans ever to sit in judgment of a former president charged with a crime. Jury selection is set to start Monday in former President Donald Trump’s hush-money trial.

NEW YORK >> The judge in Donald Trump’s hush money criminal case today turned down the former president’s request to postpone his trial because of publicity about the case.

It’s the latest in a string of delay denials that Trump has gotten from various courts this week as he fights to stave off the trial’s start Monday with jury selection.

Among other things, Trump’s lawyers had argued that the jury pool was deluged with what the defense saw as “exceptionally prejudicial” news coverage of the case. The defense maintained that was a reason to hold off the case indefinitely.

Judge Juan M. Merchan said that idea was “not tenable.”

Trump “appears to take the position that his situation and this case are unique and that the pre-trial publicity will never subside. However, this view does not align with reality,” the judge wrote.

Pointing to Trump’s two federal defamation trials and a state civil business fraud trial in Manhattan within the past year, Merchan wrote that the ex-president himself “was personally responsible for generating much, if not most, of the surrounding publicity with his public statements” outside those courtrooms and on social media.

“The situation Defendant finds himself in now is not new to him and at least in part, of his own doing,” the judge added. He said questioning of prospective jurors would address any concerns about their ability to be fair and impartial.

There was no immediate comment from Trump’s lawyers or from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case.

In a court filing last month, Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche had argued that “potential jurors in Manhattan have been exposed to huge amounts of biased and unfair media coverage relating to this case.

“Many of the potential jurors already wrongfully believe that President Trump is guilty,” Blanche added, citing the defense’s review of media articles and other research it conducted.

Prosecutors contended that publicity wasn’t likely to wane and that Trump’s own comments generated a lot of it. Prosecutors also noted that there are over 1 million people in Manhattan, arguing that jury questioning could surely locate 12 who could be impartial.

Trump’s lawyers had lobbed other, sometimes similar, arguments for delays at an appeals court this week. One of those appeals sought to put the trial on hold until the appellate court could give full consideration to the defense’s argument that it needs to be moved elsewhere, on the grounds that the jury pool has been polluted by news coverage of Trump’s other recent cases.

Trump’s lawyers also maintain that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee faces “real potential prejudice” in heavily Democratic Manhattan.

All this week’s appeals were turned down by individual appellate judges, though the matters are headed to a panel of appeals judges for further consideration.

Trump’s hush money case is the first of his four criminal indictments slated to go to trial and would be the first criminal trial ever of a former president.

Trump is accused of doctoring his company’s records to hide the real reason for payments to his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who helped the candidate bury negative claims about him during his 2016 campaign. Cohen’s activities included paying porn actor Stormy Daniels $130,000 to suppress her story of an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump years earlier, which Trump denies.

Trump pleaded not guilty last year to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. His lawyers argue the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses.

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