July 19, 2024

An ever changing saga of Donald Trump’s legal defenses in hush money trial. (Former President Donald Trump. — AFP File)
An ever changing saga of Donald Trump’s legal defenses in hush money trial. (Former President Donald Trump. — AFP File)

Former President Donald Trump’s legal team has tried various defences in the ongoing hush money trial. But none have been successful so far.

Trump’s defence strategy has shifted over time. Initially, Trump denied knowledge of the payment to Stormy Daniels. However, he later admitted that his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, had made the payment. Cohen pleaded guilty to several charges in August 2018 and testified that he made the payments at the direction of a candidate for federal office.

The case revolves around Trump’s efforts to hide hush money payments, including one of $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Before the 2016 election, Trump’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006. Trump’s response to the payment has evolved over time.

Initially, Trump denied knowing about the payment and the affair. However, in February, Cohen claimed that he personally paid Daniels before the election, using his own money and without orders from Trump or his campaign. He also said that Trump had not reimbursed him.

By March, Daniels claimed she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and filed a lawsuit to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement she had signed. In April, Trump denied any knowledge of the payment when asked about it on Air Force One.

Weeks later, Trump admitted on Fox and Friends that Cohen represented him in a small fraction of his legal work, including the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal.” A month later, Trump confessed in a tweet that Cohen was reimbursed for the payment and that the non-disclosure agreement existed, but denied the affair ever occurred.

In May, Trump signed a financial disclosure form revealing that he had reimbursed Cohen in 2017 for an amount between $100,001 and $250,000. However, court documents from August showed that Cohen was paid $420,000 in total. This highlights an apparent discrepancy in the amounts.

He labelled the hush money payments as a “simple private transaction” and denied that it was a campaign contribution. In January 2023, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg began presenting evidence to a grand jury. Trump’s lawyers argued that the statute of limitations had ended and requested to dismiss the indictment.

The DA’s office cited exceptions to the statute of limitations, and the judge rejected Trump’s claim. Trump’s lawyers also contended that he was being charged multiple times for the same 11 reimbursement checks made to Cohen. The DA’s office argued that the charges were not multiplicitous, and the judge rejected this argument as well.

Finally, Trump’s lawyers argued that he was “impermissibly targeted for prosecution” due to political pressure. The DA’s office said Trump’s claim was “meritless.” The judge rejected this argument from Donald Trump. 

In the hush money trial, Trump’s attorneys have made several attempts to delay the proceedings. They alleged misconduct by the DA’s office over the late production of documents that led to a 30-day delay in the trial. However, the judge found the DA’s office not at fault and criticised Trump’s lawyers for their serious claims without adequate support.

Trump’s lawyers notified the court of his intention to rely on the “advice-of-counsel” defence. They argued that he could not be held responsible for the crimes charged as he was acting on his lawyers’ advice. However, they clarified that Trump won’t assert a formal advice-of-counsel defence.

Trump’s defence attorneys requested an adjournment of the trial as the Supreme Court reviews his presidential immunity claim. However, Judge Merchan rejected Trump’s attempt to delay the trial on presidential immunity grounds.

Trump’s lawyers accused Judge Merchan of having an ongoing financial interest tied to the trial due to his daughter’s job at a digital consulting firm. The DA’s office refuted this claim. 

A week before the trial, Trump made further efforts to delay the trial, including filing litigation against Judge Merchan and requesting a change of venue.

However, his plea was dismissed by the court. 

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