Criminal trial against Trump over hush money payments is scheduled to begin on March 25th

Donald Trump will be the first ex-president in US history to face a criminal trial from March 25th. A New York judge on Thursday set the date for the start of the trial over the hush money payment to a former porn actress. Trump is also criminally charged in three other cases with significantly more serious allegations, including election manipulation. No trial date has yet been set in the three other cases.

In the case of the hush money payment to the former porn actress Stormy Daniels, the jury is to be selected from March 25th. Judge Juan Merchan ignored Trump's lawyers' request to postpone or cancel the trial entirely.

The right-wing populist ex-president describes his criminal prosecution as “election interference” and portrays himself as a victim of a politically controlled judicial apparatus. Trump wants to challenge incumbent Joe Biden in the presidential election on November 5, 2020, against whom he was defeated in 2020.

“How can you run in an election if you're sitting in a Manhattan courthouse all day?” Trump said upon his arrival at the court in New York. At the same time, he denied that he was guilty of anything in connection with the hush money payment: “We are here because of something that is not a crime.”

In fact, the hush money of $130,000 (120,000 euros) paid by Trump's then-lawyer Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election was not in itself illegal. However, the repayment of the money to Cohen by Trump's real estate empire in numerous tranches is said to have been incorrectly recorded as legal fees. The New York District Attorney's Office in Manhattan is accusing Trump of falsifying business documents in 34 cases.

According to her own account, the sex actress with the real name Stephanie Clifford had an affair with the married Trump in 2006 – shortly after his wife Melania gave birth to their son Barron. Trump denies having a sexual relationship with Stormy Daniels.

In March of last year, Trump was indicted in connection with the hush money payment. It was the first criminal indictment against a former president in US history. This was followed by three additional criminal charges against the Republican.

These relate to his attempts to subsequently overturn his election defeat against the Democrat Biden, as well as to the hoarding of secret files on national security in his private estate in the state of Florida.

Trump has been charged with allegations of election manipulation both in federal court and by the Georgia state attorney general's office. A court hearing took place on Thursday in Atlanta, Georgia. This involved a request from Trump's lawyers to drop charges due to “misconduct” by lead prosecutor Fani Willis.

The accusation against Willis relates to the fact that she had an affair with the special prosecutor she appointed, Nathan Wade. The Trump camp speaks of an “inappropriate intimate and personal relationship.” Wade spent some of the $650,000 he received for his work on “lavish vacations” with Willis, including a Caribbean cruise.

Willis has acknowledged a “personal relationship” with Wade. However, this only began after he was hired for the Trump case in November 2021. She and Wade also paid separately for their vacation together.

Trump was impeached in Georgia in August on 13 counts over his attempts to overturn his defeat by Biden. The charges are based, among other things, on a law to combat organized crime. The charges include conspiracy to commit forgery, conspiracy to make false statements, filing false documents and incitement to violate an oath of office.

The elected president had, among other things, called for “finding” the 11,780 electoral votes necessary for a victory in the southern state in a now-famous phone call with Georgia's election director Brad Raffensperger. In addition, the confirmation of Biden's victory should be prevented by false electoral votes in favor of Trump.