Judge Merchan Hands Donald Trump Major Legal Setback

The judge in Donald Trump’s hush money trial has refused the former president’s request for documents about whether adult film star Stormy Daniels had committed “extortion” or “larceny” and whether Trump was a “victim of blackmail.”

Trump’s lawyers were seeking a large volume of documents from prosecutors, which Judge Juan Merchan described as an “improper fishing expedition.”

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is the first former president in United States history to stand trial in a criminal case. He has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records. He has continually said that this case and other criminal and civil challenges involving him are politically motivated.

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Stormy Daniels on January 27, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The judge in Donald Trump’s hush money trial has rejected a defense request for more documents about Daniels.

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The prosecution seeks to prove that before the 2016 presidential election, Trump paid, or discussed paying, two women—adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal—to not disclose his alleged affairs with them. He denies affairs with either woman.

Daniels completed her evidence on Thursday after sometimes heated cross-examination with Trump’s attorney Susan Necheles.

Newsweek sought email comment from Trump’s attorney as well as Daniels’ attorney Chuck Brewster.

In a written ruling on Friday, Merchan rejected the request for an internal memo about Daniels and said those documents relate only to “a legal analysis related to the criminal investigation” and were “privileged work product.”

There is no suggestion that Daniels was involved in larceny or extortion.

Trump’s lawyers were hoping to subpoena the documents from prosecutor Mark Pomerantz, who resigned from the case two years ago.

They were also seeking statements made by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is alleged to have paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 on Trump’s behalf.

In particular, Trump’s team wanted any documents that proved Cohen had “bias or animosity toward President Trump.”

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Donald Trump in New York City on February 15, 2024. Judge Juan Merchan has rejected Trump’s attempts to obtain more prosecution documents in the hush money trial.

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Merchan rejected this as “far too broad and an improper fishing expedition into general discovery.”

Merchan wrote that there was “no reasonable likelihood” that the request for documents about Cohen “would uncover any information that is relevant and material to the proceedings.”

Trump’s team also wanted internal emails and other discussions with the district attorney about how to deal with Trump’s previous discovery requests.

“This appears to be an attempt to obtain DANY [District Attorney of New York] internal communications about their discovery obligations,” Merchan wrote.

The judge said this was a request for “information on topics that are not relevant and material to the facts at issue.”

He noted that “courts have denied a motion to quash where the subpoena demands production of specific documents which are relevant and material to the proceedings.”

Merchan wrote that he was rejecting the subpoena request “in its entirety.”