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Trump is making 'wild' claims about late hush money documents, prosecutors say

Former U.S. President Trump hosts a campaign rally, in Rome, Georgia

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Prosecutors on Thursday accused Donald Trump of making "wild and untrue" accusations against them about the timing of the disclosure of thousands of pages of possible evidence in his hush money criminal case as he seeks to further delay the trial.

A trial had initially been scheduled for March 25. Trump, seeking to regain the U.S. presidency this year, has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records for seeking to hide a $130,000 hush money payment his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

But Justice Juan Merchan last week delayed the trial until at least mid-April to give Trump more time to review documents related to Cohen, a key prosecution witness, that were turned over by the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan this month in response to a January defense subpoena.

The judge will instead hold a hearing on March 25 on Trump's requests to dismiss the case or delay the trial by 90 days. Trump is also seeking to punish the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought the case, for allegedly trying to bury information that could damage Cohen's credibility.

In a court filing on Thursday, Bragg's office said most of the new material was irrelevant to the case or duplicates of documents Trump already has. The office also said it had worked diligently to provide potential evidence to Trump.

"Defendant has reacted to (federal prosecutors') disclosures ... by leveling wild and untrue allegations of misconduct and malfeasance," the state prosecutors wrote.

Trump's lawyer Todd Blanche declined to comment.

The New York state prosecutors have said Cohen paid Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, for her silence before the 2016 election about a sexual encounter she has said she had with Trump a decade earlier. Trump denies the encounter. His lawyers have argued he directed Cohen to pay Daniels to spare Trump and his family embarrassment, not to boost his campaign.

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office had previously investigated the payment but did not charge Trump with a crime. Cohen in 2018 pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance law over the payment.

The case is one of four criminal indictments against Trump, the Republican candidate challenging Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 U.S. election.

He has also pleaded not guilty in the other cases, which stem from efforts to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden and his handling of government documents after leaving the White House.

No former U.S. president has ever faced a criminal trial.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Will Dunham and Noeleen Walder)