Takeaways from Donald Trump’s wild day of legal developments

Mar 25, 2024, 2:46 PM

Former U.S. President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at a hearing in his criminal case on charg...

Former U.S. President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at a hearing in his criminal case on charges stemming from hush money paid to a porn star in New York City on March 25. (Brendan McDermid, Pool/Reuters via CNN Newsource)

(Brendan McDermid, Pool/Reuters via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — Donald Trump received both a lifeline from the courts Monday and a trial date for the first criminal trial of a former president in US history, a pair of rulings that hit home the legal whiplash constantly surrounding him.

The twin rulings Monday, which came roughly within an hour of each other, hit the intersection of challenges to Trump’s image and his famed business empire as he seeks a second term in the White House.

Trump’s historic criminal trial in the New York hush money case against him will begin with jury selection on April 15, Judge Juan Merchan said Monday, after a dispute over the late production of documents caused the judge initially to push back the start date.

For Trump, however, the more significant ruling Monday may have been a New York appeals court allowing him to post a reduced $175 million bond to appeal the $464 million New York civil fraud judgment against him, his adult sons and his company. Trump told reporters he will cover the bond using cash as a collateral.

Here are the takeaways from another historic day for Trump:

Trump’s hush money trial will begin April 15

Barring another unforeseen hiccup, never something to rule out when Trump is involved, the former president will face a jury on criminal charges for at least one of his trials before the November election

Monday’s hearing was to consider Trump’s motion to dismiss the charges and sanction the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office after the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York turned over tens of thousands of documents earlier this month related to the 2018 federal prosecution of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer.

Before noon, Merchan had already dismissed the allegations from Trump’s attorneys, ruling there were no violations and that the trial will begin with jury selection on April 15.

Trump was charged by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg with 34 counts of falsifying business records stemming from reimbursements to Cohen for hush money payments he made before the 2016 election to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about an alleged affair with Trump. The former president has pleaded not guilty and denied the affair.

The date is three weeks later than originally scheduled, but the delay won’t make much of a dent on Trump’s 2024 calendar – and it’s still murky whether any of his other three trials will happen before the election.

Appeals court lowers Trump’s bond

Trump’s lawyers said last week that he was unable to post a $464 million bond to appeal the civil fraud judgement against him. Trump faced a Monday deadline to post bond or else New York Attorney General Letitia James could have begun the process of seizing his property.

But the appeals court ruling gave Trump an additional 10 days to post a bond of $175 million, a number the former president said he would be able to come up with.

Trump already posted a $91 million bond this month while he appeals the defamation judgment against him in the case brought by E. Jean Carroll.

The ruling is a major victory for Trump, staving off the prospect, for now, of James seeking to seize the former president’s property to enforce the judgement against him.

Once Trump posts the $175 million bond, enforcement of the civil fraud judgment against the former president, his sons and their company is paused until at least September.

The ruling ordered the two sides to prepare briefs for oral argument by then in a New York appellate court.

‘It will be my honor to post,’ Trump says

Trump didn’t speak inside the courtroom Wednesday, but he still had plenty of chances to make his views of Monday’s developments known.

The former president reacted to the lowered bond first in front of the cameras in the hallway of the courthouse and then at a news conference at 40 Wall Street – one of the buildings that could have been threatened had he failed to post bond to appeal the civil fraud judgement.

“It will be my honor to post,” Trump said, adding he will post “whatever is necessary, whether it be cash, or security or bonds.”

When questioned by a reporter, Trump then said he will use cash for collateral.

At his news conference, the former president also railed against the plan to start his criminal trial next month.

“You have a case which … they’re dying to get this thing started. The judge cannot go faster. He wants to get it started so badly,” Trump said.

Trump’s lawyers have sought to delay all four of his criminal trials to push them past the election. In the other three, he may yet be successful, though the New York trial is now set to begin in three weeks.

Hush money judge says district attorney made ‘diligent, good-faith effort’

During Monday’s hearing, Merchan discredited Trump’s allegations of misconduct against the district attorney’s office, finding that prosecutors cooperated in the effort to secure documents from the US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York.

“It’s odd that we’re even here,” Merchan said at one point.

The judge repeatedly said how serious and concerning Trump’s allegations were against Manhattan prosecutors, at one point raising his voice on the bench.

“You are literally accusing the Manhattan DA’s office and the people assigned to this case of prosecutorial misconduct and of trying to make me complicit in it and you don’t have a single cite to support that position?” Merchan said.

Merchan found it “really disconcerting” that Trump’s lawyers would accuse Bragg’s office of prosecutorial misconduct without having case law to support their argument that the district attorney had an obligation to obtain documents from the US attorney’s office and the FBI.

Merchan also lectured Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche — who worked in the US attorney’s office for 13 years — for not making the request soon after the federal agency’s document production in the case last summer.

The judge eventually ruled that the district attorney’s office was not at fault for the late disclosure from federal prosecutors and determined that prosecutors made a diligent, good-faith effort to obtain all available discoverable information from the federal prosecutors.

Trump hasn’t given up his hope to delay the criminal trial

Trump has attempted to delay all four criminal trials until after November’s election — in the event they aren’t dismissed entirely.

Immediately after Merchan’s decision to start the hush money trial next month, Trump’s attorneys sought another way to push back the start of the trial.

Blanche asked to file a motion seeking to delay the trial because of pretrial publicity. Trump’s attorneys have argued that a recent documentary about Daniels and the fallout from the hush money payment being made public prejudiced the jury pool, and that the case is taking place so close to the 2024 election.

The district attorney’s office responded by arguing that pretrial publicity “has been caused and exacerbated by the defendant.”

Merchan was clearly skeptical of the claim, asking what had changed since February, when he initially set the trial date for March 25 and rejected similar arguments. But Merchan said he would let Blanche file the motion, asking how quickly it could be filed.

Merchan didn’t seem inclined to think it would change the trial date, however.

“See you all on the 15th,” he said.

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Takeaways from Donald Trump’s wild day of legal developments