Trump cites Passover for longer delay of hush-money trial even after Manhattan DA’s concession


Alvin Bragg, Donald Trump

Alvin Bragg (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II), Donald Trump (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

UPDATE: The judge has adjourned the trial until 30 days from today, Friday, March 15, and set a hearing for March 25 at 10 a.m. “on the pending discovery motion, the circumstances surrounding the document production by the USAO-SDNY and the scheduling of a trial date, if necessary.” The judge indicated he would set a new trial date only after he hears from the prosecution and defense on March 25 and rules on the discovery motion. As of now, the trial has been pushed to mid-April.

While the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office on Thursday surprised some by agreeing to delay the start of former President Donald Trump’s New York hush-money criminal trial for 30 days, which would move the date from March 25 to April 24, the defense has countered that Passover should make the DA’s concession a non-starter.

Telling Acting Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan that an “immediate adjournment is appropriate,” defense attorneys Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles pointed to “significant and ongoing discovery violations” on the part of Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg (D). The lawyers said the recent “untimely production” of Michael Cohen-related documents obtained from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York — and the “volume” of those documents — support their request for additional delay (they have already sought a 90-day adjournment as they gun for a dismissal of the whole case).

Bragg ultimately agreed to a 30-day delay so as to “permit sufficient time for defendant to review the USAO productions,” even as he said prosecutors would be ready for trial on March 25. The DA bristled, however, at the notion his office was to blame. Instead, he assigned blame to the defense’s delay tactics.

“[T]he USAO produced a subset of the materials we requested, which we timely and fully disclosed to defendant on June 8, 2023, more than nine months ago. Despite having access to those materials since June, defendant raised no concerns to the People about the sufficiency of our efforts to obtain materials from the USAO before last week; instead, defendant waited until January 18, 2024 to subpoena additional materials from the USAO and then consented to repeated extensions of the deadline for the USAO’s determination,” Bragg said. “The timing of the USAO’s productions is a result solely of defendant’s delay despite the People’s diligence.”

Bragg added that this dispute “certainly” should not lead the judge to side with the defense’s request to dismiss the case.

In their response, the Trump defense doubled down on their overarching dismissal goal while also asserting that a 30-day trial delay is not enough. Rather than starting trial on March 25, there should be a hearing on discovery sanctions during that week instead, the defense said.

“For now, however, an adjournment is necessary, and thirty days is not sufficient given the volume of recently produced materials and the nature of the ongoing disputes,” the letter said. “Therefore, we respectfully request that the Court schedule a haring on the pending discovery motion and the scheduling of a trial date, should one be necessary, at a time that is convenient to Your Honor during the week of March 25.”

But the defense added in a footnote telling the judge: “The Court cannot schedule the trial” on April 24. Why? Because of Passover — and what that would mean for the “ability of observant Jews to participate as jurors.” Notably, while U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon did not on Thursday get into when a trial in Trump’s federal Espionage Act prosecution may occur, the defense alluded to the judge’s prior comment that even an early July trial date seemed “unrealistic.” Still, the defense highlighted the fact the Mar-a-Lago trial date remains nominally set for May 20 in their letter to Merchan:

We note that a 30-day adjournment would move the start of the trial from March 25 to April 24, which would conflict with Passover, which this year is from April 22 to April 30. The Court cannot schedule the trial in a timeframe that would prevent or inhibit the ability of observant Jews to participate as jurors. We also note that President Trump’s trial in the Southern District of Florida is still scheduled to begin on May 20, 2024, even though President Trump has requested that the date be adjourned, and the Court has indicated an adjournment is appropriate.

The Trump attorneys also shot back at Bragg’s defense of his office’s “diligence.” Saying that prosecutors “waited until they got caught being derelict in their discovery obligations,” and describing that as a “surprising and disappointing” development, the lawyers next responded to the DA’s blaming of the defense.

“It is similarly wrong, but not surprising, that the People assign blame on President Trump for the untimely disclosures when the People had many years to work with USAO-SDNY to confirm they had collected all information they were obligated to produce to comply with the CPL,” the Trump team concluded.

Read the defense’s letter to the judge here.

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