Trump Makes Third Attempt to Delay Hush Money Trial


Lawyers for Donald J. Trump have spent the early part of this week seeking to stave off the former president’s trial on charges that he covered up a sex scandal.

They tried again Wednesday, filing a civil action in an appeals court against the judge in the case. Although the filing is sealed, three people with knowledge of the matter said that it challenged several issues relating to the trial, which is scheduled to start on Monday.

The filing underscored Mr. Trump’s increasing desperation — and scattershot approach — to delaying the trial. Stalling is one of the former president’s favorite legal strategies, not just in the Manhattan case, but in all his legal entanglements.

Legal experts strained to recall any other defendant filing three emergency appeals in three days. And at this rate, with a smattering of other legal issues still unresolved, Mr. Trump might not be done.

Barry Kamins, a former New York judge who is now a defense lawyer, said the three-time effort was highly unusual. But, he added, “​I’ll ask you: Has a former president ever been prosecuted before? Everything about this case is a first.”

The papers on Wednesday include a request that the appeals court pause the case while it considers whether to oust the trial judge, Juan M. Merchan, the people said. Mr. Trump’s lawyers argue that Justice Merchan has a conflict of interest, citing his daughter’s work as a Democratic political consultant.

Ethics experts have said that Justice Merchan does not need to step aside, and the judge has previously declined to recuse himself, noting that a judicial ethics panel concluded last year that he had no real conflict. The Trump team recently asked Justice Merchan again to step aside, and the judge is expected to give his answer this week.

In the action against the judge on Wednesday, two of the people said, Mr. Trump’s lawyers also asked the appeals court to find that their client, as a former president, is immune from prosecution. Justice Merchan has rejected that argument.

Mr. Trump’s so-called Article 78 action — a special type of appeal that comes in the form of a lawsuit and is used to challenge New York State government agencies and judges — was heard by a single appeals court judge on Wednesday afternoon. The judge will most likely decide whether to temporarily pause the case by the end of the day.

CNN previously reported that Mr. Trump had filed the action.

The Manhattan case was brought by the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg. It would be the first trial Mr. Trump faces after four indictments.

Mr. Trump’s other efforts this week to delay the case have failed.

The former president’s more traditional appeal, a request to delay the trial while judges consider a defense request to move it outside Manhattan, was denied Monday.

In a separate Article 78 action filed against Justice Merchan that day, Mr. Trump’s lawyers asked the appeals court to delay the trial while it considered his request to throw out a gag order the judge imposed. The order prohibits Mr. Trump from attacking witnesses, prosecutors and the judge’s family.

But Mr. Bragg has argued that the gag order will protect the people involved from Mr. Trump’s heated rhetoric. And an appeals court judge on Tuesday declined to pause the case.

Mr. Bragg accused Mr. Trump of falsifying records to conceal a sex scandal involving the porn star Stormy Daniels. The criminal case is one of four facing Mr. Trump, who is once again the presumptive Republican nominee for president, and it might be the only one to make it to trial before Election Day this year.

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