Donald Trump will face his first criminal trial next month in the “silence” case.

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Donald Trump will next month become the first former US president to face criminal trial, after a New York state judge refused to dismiss or delay the “silence” case brought against him over payments allegedly made to the porn actress Stormy Daniels. -until the 2016 elections.

Trump, who is the favorite to once again be the Republican nominee for president, remained silent during Thursday’s hearing in which Judge Juan Merchan announced that, after consulting with the federal judge overseeing the separate case of election interference in Washington, the Manhattan courthouse would begin jury selection on March 25, for a trial expected to last six weeks.

Trump’s attempt to dismiss the Manhattan criminal case, which his lawyers had argued was “politically motivated” and unconstitutional, was roundly rejected by Merchan. The judge wrote that the prosecution’s claim “that the defendant paid an individual $130,000 to conceal a sexual encounter in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election and then falsified 34 business documents to cover the fee” they were “serious charges”.

Todd Blanche, a lawyer for Trump, said the decision was a “great injustice” and that scheduling a trial during the presidential primary season amounted to “election interference” by the court.

Blanche also argued that the trial should be delayed because the jury pool would be tainted by coverage of writer E Jean Carroll’s civil litigation in Manhattan federal court against the former president, in which Trump was found liable for sexual assault and defamation and ordered to pay damages totaling more than $88 million. Merchan refused to heed the request.

The sides also argued over questions that would be used to screen potential jurors, including those related to where people get their news or whether they think the 2020 election was stolen, underscoring the complexity of choosing an impartial jury for a trial against a polarizing party. political figure like Trump.

The Manhattan case will be the first of four criminal cases against Trump to go to trial. By the time it begins, the former president is likely to have achieved an unassailable lead in the Republican primaries, putting himself in a position to challenge Joe Biden on the November 2024 vote.

The case, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg last April, stems from a years-long investigation into a “catch and kill” scheme allegedly carried out by members of the Trump campaign to identify and silence women who might make accusations of illicit deals with the real estate tycoon.

The indictment alleges that Trump improperly recorded refunds to his lawyer Michael Cohen for tens of thousands of dollars he personally paid Daniels on behalf of the campaign less than two weeks before Americans went to the polls in 2016.

Bragg’s team said that while the underlying crimes — falsification of business records — are usually less serious crimes in New York state, they should be elevated to more serious felony charges because they violated federal campaign laws.

If convicted, Trump could face fines and possible prison time. In his remarks to reporters after the hearing, he called the proceedings “rigged.”

“I will be here during the day and campaign at night,” he said.

A trial in a separate federal case over Trump’s alleged retention of classified documents is scheduled for May, while Georgia prosecutors have proposed an August trial in their case over the former president’s alleged attempts to subvert the election results in state.

A hearing in the Georgia case was underway Thursday morning to decide whether to disqualify Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney who brought the prosecution against Trump and others, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. She was accused of receiving financial benefits through a relationship with one of the outside lawyers hired to work on the case. Willis admitted to the affair but denied any misconduct.

The March trial date for the federal case in which Trump is accused of plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 election has been put on hold while the charges are contested by the former president, who has argued he should be immune from prosecution for acts committed while in office. The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether to allow the proceedings to resume or leave them on hold while the appeal continues.

Merchan’s ruling on Thursday was the first of two major legal decisions involving Trump expected this week, with a judge at a nearby Manhattan civil court expected to rule whether the former president should be fined up to $370 million and prevented from doing so. business in his hometown for vastly inflating property values ​​in an attempt to obtain favorable loans.

Additional reporting by Stefania Palma from Washington

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