Trump seeks to block Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen testimony at hush money trial


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By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Donald Trump is seeking to block porn star Stormy Daniels and his former lawyer Michael Cohen from testifying at the former U.S. president’s upcoming criminal trial on charges stemming from hush money paid to Daniels before the 2016 election.

The case is the first of four indictments Trump faces to reach trial as he campaigns to regain the presidency. New York state prosecutors in Manhattan say Trump falsified business records to cover up Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Daniels for her silence about a 2006 sexual liaison she says she had with Trump.

Trump denies having had sex with Daniels and has pleaded not guilty.

In a Feb. 22 court filing made public this week, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said Cohen had a history of lying and that he would lie again at the trial, which starts on March 25. Blanche said Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, would seek to use the trial to promote and monetize her story.

“Similar to Cohen, she seeks to tell contrived stories with salacious details of events she claimed occurred nearly 20 years ago,” Blanche wrote.

Cohen’s lawyer declined to comment. A lawyer for Daniels did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cohen in 2018 pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws with the payment to Daniels, which exceeded contribution limits, and to lying before Congress. In testimony at a separate civil trial last year, he said he lied during his 2018 guilty plea by admitting to tax evasion.

In a Feb. 15 court hearing, a prosecutor with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said Trump would have the chance to cross-examine Cohen at trial.

Cohen is expected to be a key witness against Trump. Prosecutors say his payment to Daniels was part of a broader “catch-and-kill” scheme to prevent allegations that Trump had extramarital affairs from coming to light ahead of the 2016 election.

They said the scheme also included a $150,0000 payment a tabloid publisher made on Trump’s behalf to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who says she had sexual encounters with Trump, who denies the affair.

Prosecutors are also asking Justice Juan Merchan to impose a gag order restricting Trump from disparaging witnesses and others involved in the case.

Trump faces 34 felony falsification of business records counts over his 2017 reimbursements to Cohen for the Daniels payment. Prosecutors say his New York-based family real estate company falsely recorded the reimbursement as legal expenses.

Blanche said prosecutors should be barred from arguing that the payments to Daniels and McDougal were part of an effort by Trump to influence the 2016 election.

“Accounts of alleged interactions posed the risk of significant reputational damage to President Trump, his family, and business interests, separate and apart from his candidacy,” Blanche wrote.

Merchan will decide on the requests ahead of the trial, which is expected to last up to six weeks.

Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, also faces state and federal charges over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and a federal case over his handling of government documents after leaving office. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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