Trump loses another delay attempt for hush money trial, this time over pre-trial publicity

Former President Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial remains on track to start April 15 after a New York judge on Friday denied a Trump bid based on pre-trial publicity to delay proceedings.

It's the latest in a flurry of failed efforts by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to derail the case over whether he falsified business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star.

Judge Juan Merchan already rejected a previous Trump request for delay based on pre-trial publicity back in February. Merchan also recently rejected Trump's request to push back the trial date until after the Supreme Court rules on whether Trump has presidential immunity from separate federal election interference charges.

Former US President Donald Trump arrives for his hearing to determine the date of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on March 25, 2024. Trump faces twin legal crises today in New York, where he could see the possible seizure of his storied properties over a massive fine as he separately fights to delay a criminal trial even further.

In Trump's latest failed bid, he pointed to a private survey indicating that 93% of residents in Manhattan have seen media related to at least one of the criminal investigations he faces. Trump also said a recent documentary about adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who received the hush money payment, jeopardized his ability to get a fair trial.

Daniels' "ongoing publicity tour relating to the documentary has included egregious efforts to prejudice the jury pool while seeking to enrich herself," Trump's legal team argued in a court filing.

However, Merchan said Friday that the proper way to assuage Trump's concerns about pre-trial publicity is to have a thorough and thoughtful jury selection process.

"Indeed, this remedy is supported by the results of Defendant's own Survey which indicates that 70% of New Yorkers could 'definitely or probably' be fair and impartial," Merchan wrote in his decision.

Related: Secret Service, NYPD vow 'highest level of safety and security' for Donald Trump's trial

Prosecutors: Trump is creating pre-trial publicity

Merchan delayed the trial from March 25 to April 15 after New York federal prosecutors responded to a Trump subpoena by providing more than 100,000 pages of documents tied to the case in March. But that delay was far shorter than Trump wanted: his lawyers asked for at least 90 days to review the documents.

In a court filing opposing Trump's pre-trial publicity delay bid, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office said the former president's "own incessant rhetoric is generating significant publicity, and it would be perverse to reward defendant with an adjournment based on media attention he is actively seeking."

Director Sarah Gibson, left, greets Stormy Daniels at the premier of the Peacock Original documentary "Stormy" at Stateside Theatre at SXSW in Austin on Friday March 8, 2024.
Director Sarah Gibson, left, greets Stormy Daniels at the premier of the Peacock Original documentary "Stormy" at Stateside Theatre at SXSW in Austin on Friday March 8, 2024.

Merchan already hit Trump with a partial gag order in late March that was aimed at protecting jurors, witnesses, court staff, and prosecutors other than Bragg, as well as the family members of those staff and prosecutors. That order was expanded to protect Merchan's and Bragg's family members after Trump repeatedly attacked Merchan's daughter in posts to his millions of social media followers, arguing that her leadership of a marketing agency that works with Democratic candidates was grounds for Merchan to recuse himself from the case.

Merchan had already ruled his recusal wasn't warranted, citing the opinion of the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics.

In expanding the gag order, Merchan indicated that Trump's public statements could jeopardize a fair trial.

"The average observer, must now, after hearing Defendant's recent attacks, draw the conclusion that if they become involved in these proceedings, even tangentially, they should worry not only for themselves, but for their loved ones as well," Merchan wrote.

What is Trump charged with?

If the New York criminal trial proceeds on April 15, it will be the first of its kind against a former president.

Trump is charged with falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels soon before the 2016 election. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen made the payment soon after the release of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape, in which Trump crudely claimed he could "do anything" to women, including kissing and groping them, because he was famous. Prosecutors allege Trump had Cohen pay the hush money because he was worried Daniels' story of a sexual encounter with the real estate mogul could further endanger his campaign.

Trump later reimbursed Cohen for paying off Daniels, and caused the Trump Organization to carry records of the reimbursement that were falsely labeled as payments for "legal services," according to prosecutors.

Trump has always denied having an affair with Daniels, who could be a major witness at the trial. Trump has pleaded not guilty in the New York criminal case.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump loses NY hush money trial delay bid based on pre-trial publicity