A Manhattan judge skewered former President Donald Trump’s legal team’s allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in a hearing on Monday, declaring that defense attorneys leveled serious allegations that they could not support with any citation. 

“The People went so far above and beyond what they were required to do that it’s odd that we’re even here,” Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan told Trump’s attorneys on Monday morning.

Decisively rejecting Trump’s claims to the contrary, Merchan kept the former president’s historic criminal trial on pace, ordering the start of  jury selection on April 15.

Trump’s lawyers had accused prosecutors of withholding information favorable to the defense after having received more than 100,000 pages of documents on the eve of the trial’s anticipated start date. They had obtained those records in response to a subpoena to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, which previously prosecuted Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen for related campaign finance violations. 

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sharply criticized defense counsel’s allegations against his office as a delay tactic, writing in one memorandum: “Enough is enough.” The top prosecutor asserted that nearly all of the documents had been “immaterial” or “duplicative,” estimating that fewer than 270 of them were new. 

Justice Merchan pressed Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche on another issue: The files were maintained by the U.S. Attorney’s office, meaning that they were not under the “custody and control” of the district attorney.

In a testy exchange, Merchan pressed Blanche on his history as a former Southern District of New York prosecutor, suggesting that Blanche should have been familiar with the agency’s procedures for record requests. Blanche acknowledged he spent 13 years inside that office.

Asked why the defense did not subpoena the documents earlier, Blanche said it was not their job.

“It’s not the People’s job, either,” Merchan shot back. 

The judge asked for a citation suggesting that Bragg had responsibility for the documents — and admonished the attorney when he did not provide one. 

“That you don’t have a case right now is really disconcerting,” Merchan said on Monday morning. “You’re literally accusing the District Attorney’s office and the people in it of prosecutorial misconduct and trying to make me complicit in it.”

Before the hearing, Trump’s attorneys had written a memorandum accusing prosecutors of “widespread misconduct,” which they claimed to have been “specifically geared to interfere in the 2024 presidential election and deprive the American people of their First Amendment right to receive campaign advocacy from President Trump.”

Merchan found those claims fell considerably shorter than advertised, and he called that practice part of a noticeable pattern for Trump’s legal team.

 

Editor’s note: Readers may also be interested in Adam Klasfeld’s Visualizing ‘Hush Money’: How Trump’s Complex Payoffs Sparked 34 Election-Related Criminal Charges, March 25, 2024.

Photo credit: Former president Donald Trump prepares to speak to the media during a pre-trial hearing at Criminal Court on March 25, 2024 in New York City (Brendan McDermid-Pool/Getty Images)