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Trump hush-money judge warns against delay tactics and threatens lawyers with contempt in blistering order

A composite image of former President Donald Trump, attorney Michael Cohen, and porn star Stormy Daniels.
Donald Trump, attorney Michael Cohen, and Stormy Daniels.AP
  • Trump's hush-money defense lawyers have protested the judge's tight control over pretrial motions.

  • In a blistering order Tuesday, the judge doubled down on requiring advance notice of new motions.

  • Trump's lawyers face "criminal contempt" if they file more motions without asking first, he wrote.

Donald Trump's New York hush money judge issued a blistering written order Tuesday that warned the GOP frontrunner's defense team against "dilatory" tactics between now and the new April 15 trial date.

The trial judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, threatened Trump's lawyers with contempt if they again try to bend his strict rules limiting the filing of new pretrial motions.

Courts have "power to punish for a criminal contempt" whenever there is "willful disobedience" of a judge's orders, Merchan warned in his ruling.

"This Court has the authority to implement measures as necessary to manage its docket and prevent 'dilatory tactics' right up until the eve of trial," Merchan wrote.

Read Judge Merchan's ruling here.

Rule-flouting and frivolous delays will not be tolerated, the judge warned.

"Defendant, either directly or through counsel, has repeatedly stated publicly that the defense goal is to delay these proceedings, if possible, past the 2024 presidential election," the judge noted in a footnote on the second page of the ruling.

Merchan has said he does not want to be strafed by last-minute, trial-delaying requests and demands.

On March 8, he ordered that before any new pretrial motions are filed, the parties must send him a one-page pre-motion letter setting out the relief being sought. Only if the judge agrees can the actual motion be filed.

But in Tuesday's ruling, Merchan criticized Trump's team for skirting that rule last week by sending a one-page pre-motion letter attached to the motion itself.

Defense lawyers have complained that requiring these letters — and the judge's permission — violates Trump's Constitutional right to a fair trial.

Manhattan prosecutors accuse Trump of falsifying business documents 34 times to hide a $130,000 hush-money payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels. The payment was just 11 days before the 2016 presidential election, and was an attempt to interfere in that election, the DA alleges.

A March 10 letter from Trump's legal team illustrates the judge's concerns.

Todd Blanche, the former president's lead attorney in the hush money case, wrote the judge a one-page letter asking if he could file a long motion asking to delay the trial.

Blanche said that "pretrial publicity" made a fair trial impossible. He blamed, in part, the streaming service Peacock, which released a documentary about Stormy Daniels on March 18.

"President Trump's constitutional right to a fair trial is at stake," Blanche wrote. "As will be discussed in detail in the proposed motion, no fair and impartial jury can be selected in this County at the end of this month."

He also blamed alleged "media leaks" about a plea and sentencing of Allen Weisselberg, the longtime Trump Organization executive who was separately convicted of tax fraud, and "the ongoing and near-daily barrage of prejudicial public comments by Michael Cohen and Stephanie Clifford."

Blanche noted that a fair jury might only be assembled when "media attention fades," apparently hopeful that the public might stop paying attention to the former president's criminal case over paying hush money to a porn actress.

Read the original article on Business Insider