Trump hush money prosecutors seek to ask about fraud, E. Jean Carroll

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Prosecutors on Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial want to ask the former US president about civil cases in which he was found liable for sexual abuse and fraud if he chooses to testify, according to a document made public on Wednesday.

It will be up to Justice Juan Merchan to decide whether the prosecutors with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office can ask Trump about those cases during his possible cross-examination, or whether they would be too prejudicial to Trump and not relevant enough to the trial.

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The first-ever criminal trial of a former US president began on Monday, and jury selection is ongoing. Trump, the Republican presidential candidate in the Nov. 5 election, is accused of covering up his then-lawyer Michael Cohen’s $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels for her silence before the 2016 election about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump a decade earlier.

Trump has pleaded not guilty. He has denied any such encounter with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Prosecutors said in a March 10 notice to defense lawyers that if Trump testifies in the case, they would challenge his credibility by asking him about two civil cases in which jurors found he sexually abused the writer E. Jean Carroll in the mid-1990s and then defamed her by lying about it.

He denies wrongdoing and is appealing both verdicts, which together ordered him to pay $88.3 million.

The Manhattan prosecutors also want to ask him about the civil case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James in which a judge found Trump and his family real estate company liable for fraudulently valuing properties in order to dupe insurers and lenders. Trump was ordered to pay $454.2 million in fines and penalties in that case. He denies wrongdoing and has appealed.

Justin Danilewitz, a partner at law firm Saul Ewing, said some of the evidence prosecutors want to bring in was relevant, but that if they introduce too much overly prejudicial material it could provide fodder for a possible appeal by Trump.

“These are things that would muddy up the defendant but are not probative of any legal issue in the trial,” said Danilewitz, a former federal prosecutor.

Merchan said on Tuesday that he may hold a hearing over prosecutors’ request to question Trump on those cases on Friday if jury selection ends early. The hush money case is the first of four criminal indictments Trump faces to reach trial. It may be the only one to reach a verdict before the election. He has also pleaded not guilty in the other cases, which stem from his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democratic President Joe Biden and his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House in 2021.

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