Two judges in separate courtrooms, minutes apart, could deal serious blows to Donald Trump, his business and his campaign agenda this week.
On Thursday, a Manhattan Criminal Court judge will preside over a hearing that could set the course for the former president’s trial on charges stemming from secret payments to an adult film star during his 2016 campaign.
The judge overseeing another civil fraud trial that could jeopardize his family business and branding empire is also expected to issue a final judgment in that case, with potentially tens of millions of dollars in penalties and an end to his career in real estate in New York at stake.
A court official said The independent that a decision in the case would be expected by mid-February. People familiar with the matter suggested The New York Times that a decision would come a day after Mr. Trump’s criminal court appearance date.
The former president, meanwhile, likely won’t be in New York at all on Thursday. He reportedly plans to travel to Atlanta to attend a hearing on allegations of misconduct against the prosecutor who is pursuing a sweeping criminal case against him in Georgia – accusations that Mr. Trump and his allies have amplified in an effort to undermine the accusations against him.
Mr. Trump relied on the growing pile of cases and court dates on his calendar — colliding with a primary election season as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination — to portray himself as a victim of “election interference” and political persecution, while his lawyers deny any wrongdoing or attempt to claim “immunity” for anything he did as president.
A federal election conspiracy case against him is unlikely to resume on March 4, as originally planned, while his oft-rejected “immunity” defense heads to the U.S. Supreme Court.
If the New York criminal trial date is met, it is almost certain that he will be tried for the first time as a criminal defendant in his hometown.
Judge Juan Merchan tentatively scheduled the trial to begin on March 25.
Mr. Trump has already faced two massive civil trials in Manhattan this year. A federal jury has determined he owes E Jean Carroll more than $83 million for repeatedly defaming her after he denied sexually assaulting her in the 1990s.
The civil fraud case against Mr. Trump, his two adult sons and their top associates also ended last month after 11 weeks of testimony. State Attorney General Letitia James, whose blockbuster lawsuit sparked the trial in New York County Superior Court on Center Street, is seeking $370 million in so-called “ill-gotten gains” and an order which would prevent the former president from accessing state real estate. industry for life.
Mr. Trump began his week in Florida, where he attended closed-door hearings Monday to review sensitive documents in a federal case stemming from his alleged criminal mishandling of classified materials at his Mar-a-Lago.
The criminal case in Manhattan has remained largely silent compared to months of filings and court hearings in the three other criminal cases against him, and a mountain of litigation threatening his business and potential disqualification from the 2024 election — a challenge that is now before the United States Supreme Court. Court.
The New York case marked the first set of criminal charges brought against him in a busy year.
In April, a grand jury led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted the former president on 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with reimbursements to his then-attorney, Michael Cohen , who had implemented a secret scheme to prevent the publication of potentially damaging articles. on Mr. Trump and his affairs.
Mr. Trump has pleaded not guilty.
Mr. Trump, Mr. Cohen and David Pecker, the former owner of the National investigatorallegedly worked together to “identify, buy and bury negative information” about then-candidate Trump in order to improve his electoral prospects,” according to prosecutors.
The alleged payments were used to cover up sex scandals involving adult film star Stormy Daniels as part of a “plot to undermine the integrity of the 2016 election,” according to prosecutors.
On Thursday, Judge Merchan is expected to rule on Mr. Trump’s motion to dismiss the case entirely, after which he will likely set a trial date.
The court would have relied on developments in the federal election conspiracy case – arguably the most serious against the former president – before setting a timetable, and Mr Bragg has suggested he will not object. not let this trial move forward first.
Hours after that hearing, Mr. Trump is expected to face a damning final ruling in the fraud case, which his lawyers will likely immediately appeal.
Judge Engoron’s preliminary ruling found Mr. Trump and his co-defendants liable for fraud, leaving the trial to determine what possible sanctions they should face.
The judge had originally planned to issue his final ruling by the end of January, but a series of recent developments in the case regarding potential perjury by one of the defendants during his testimony appears to have upended that timeline.
Last month, a court-appointed monitor who was tasked with overseeing his companies flagged financial information that is “either incomplete, presents results inconsistently” or “contains errors.”
One of those findings, according to his report, appears to suggest that the former president evaded taxes on millions of dollars of income by hiding money in bogus loan transactions.
Over the past two weeks, Judge Engoron has asked the parties “anything” they can tell him about an alleged plea deal reached between New York City prosecutors and the former CFO of the Trump Organization , Allen Weisselberg, on perjury charges related to his court testimony. fraud trial.
If Weisselberg “now admits to lying under oath in my courtroom during this trial,” the judge wants to know, he wrote to lawyers this month. “I don’t want to ignore anything in a matter of this magnitude.”