Trump appears at hush money hearing as court says he must pay $175 million in next 10 days

Manhattan prosecutors say Trump falsified records as part of an effort to protect his 2016 campaign by burying stories of an extramarital affair, ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks reports

A judge ruled on Monday that Donald Trump does not have to immediately pay the $457 million (£361 million) he owes in a civil business fraud case as long as he can put up $175 million in the next 10 days.

If he pays the $175 million within the stated timeframe, it stops the clock on the 30-day payment window he had for the $457 million fine and prevents the state from seizing his assets while he sees out the appeals process.

The development came just before New York Attorney General Letitia James was expected to initiate efforts to collect the judgment.

Trump’s lawyers had pleaded for a state appeals court to halt collection, claiming it was “a practical impossibility” to get an underwriter to sign off on a bond for such a large sum.

Meanwhile Trump himself was in court on Monday as a New York judge assessed whether the former president will go on trial in an ongoing hush money case.

The presumptive Republican nominee's day in court on Monday was the first of his four criminal cases to go to trial.

A New York judge has scheduled the trial for April 15 following the recent delivery of tens of thousands of pages of records from a previous federal investigation.

Judge Juan M Merchan earlier had scolded the former president’s lawyers as he weighed when to reschedule the trial, bristling at what he suggested were baseless defence claims of “prosecutorial misconduct.”

Trump's lawyers had argued that the delayed disclosures warrant dismissing the case or at least pushing it off three months.

Prosecutors say there's little new material in the trove and no reason for further delay.

“This is a witch hunt. This is a hoax. Thank you,” Trump told reporters in the courthouse hallway, invoking terms he regularly uses to describe the legal cases against him.

Inside the courtroom, he reached for a packet of papers positioned between him and his lawyers at the defence table and chatted with one of his attorneys as he read through the material.

Trump is charged with falsifying business records. Manhattan prosecutors say he did it as part of an effort to protect his 2016 campaign by burying what Trump says were false stories of an extramarital affair.

He has pleaded not guilty and says the prosecution is "politically driven bunk".

The prosecutor overseeing the case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, is a Democrat.

The case centres on allegations that Trump falsely logged $130,000 in payments as legal fees in his company's books “to disguise his and others’ criminal conduct,” as Mr Bragg's deputies put it in a court document.

Donald Trump is currently facing four criminal trials. Credit: AP

The money went to Trump's then-personal attorney Michael Cohen, but prosecutors say it wasn't for actual legal work.

Rather, they say, Cohen was just recouping money he'd paid adult film actor Stormy Daniels on Trump's behalf, so she wouldn't publicise her claim of a sexual encounter with him years earlier.

Trump's lawyers say the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses, not cover-up checks.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges, including campaign finance violations related to the Daniels payoff.

He said Trump directed him to arrange it, and federal prosecutors indicated they believed him, but they never charged Trump with any crime related to the matter.

Cohen is now a key witness in Manhattan prosecutors' case against Trump.

Trump's lawyers also have sought to delay the trial until after the Supreme Court rules on his claims of presidential immunity in his election interference case in Washington.

The high court is set to hear arguments April 25.

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