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Trump to attend pretrial hearing in Manhattan “hush money” criminal case

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A New York judge is anticipated to announce on Thursday whether the legal proceedings against former President Donald Trump will advance to trial, marking a historic moment in U.S. presidential history.

The case, brought forth by the Manhattan district attorney, revolves around the circumstances surrounding a “hush money” payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016. Scheduled for Thursday morning, the hearing is expected to see Trump in attendance as the legal saga unfolds.

Trump faces indictment on 34 felony counts of falsification of business records, a decision reached by a grand jury on March 30, 2023. Maintaining his innocence, Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges, consistently rebuffing claims and alleging political motivations behind the prosecution led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Following a preliminary trial date set by Judge Juan Merchan for March 25 during a hearing last May, there have been no further public developments in the case. However, Thursday’s hearing is poised to witness Merchan’s ruling on several pretrial motions, including one filed by Trump seeking dismissal of the case. Trump’s legal team has characterized the proceedings as a “political” and “zombie” case, stemming from what they term a protracted and politically motivated investigation.

At the heart of the matter lies accusations that Trump participated in a scheme to falsify records aimed at concealing payments to his former lawyer, Michael Cohen. Prosecutors allege these payments were reimbursements for hush money given to Daniels, who claimed to have had an affair with Trump and agreed to silence in exchange for $130,000 before the 2016 election. Trump’s defense maintains that the payments were legitimate reimbursements for legal expenses, refuting any claims of a cover-up.

Trump’s legal entanglements extend beyond the Manhattan case, with the former president facing charges in federal cases in Washington, D.C., and Florida, as well as a state case in Georgia. Opting to prioritize his presence at the New York hearing, Trump’s decision comes amidst concurrent legal proceedings, including a hearing in Georgia concerning allegations of financial impropriety involving District Attorney Fani Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade, both of whom have denied any wrongdoing.

Additionally, the federal case in Washington, centered on Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, has seen its original trial date of March 4 postponed pending Trump’s appeal of a rejected presidential immunity claim to the Supreme Court. As the legal battles ensue on multiple fronts, Trump’s appearance at the Manhattan hearing underscores the gravity of the charges and the intensity of the legal scrutiny surrounding his presidency.

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