Judge in Trump hush money case quashes last-minute defense subpoena

Trump's lawyers had subpoenaed NBC for materials related to a documentary.

April 5, 2024, 3:43 PM

The judge overseeing Donald Trump's criminal hush money case quashed a last-minute subpoena by defense lawyers Friday, writing that the former president's request was the "very definition of a fishing expedition."

Trump's lawyers last month subpoenaed NBCUniversal for materials related to their documentary about adult film star Stormy Daniels, which was scheduled to be released one week before the case's original trial date of March 25.

Daniels is expected to testify at trial about the hush money payment she received in 2016 for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump that the former president has long denied. Trump has pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with the payment, which Trump's then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels just days before the 2016 presidential election.

Jury selection for the trial is scheduled to get underway April 15 in New York City. The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump arrives at the New York State Supreme Court in New York, on Oct. 2, 2023.
Former President Donald Trump arrives at the New York State Supreme Court in New York, on Oct. 2, 2023.
Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Defending their subpoena to NBCUniversal, Trump's lawyers argued that the requested records would "establish collusion between NBCU and Daniels" to release the documentary "as close to the start of the trial as possible to prejudice Defendant and maximize their own financial interest."

In his ruling Friday, Judge Juan Merchan quashed the subpoena and described Trump's arguments as "purely speculative." Evidence submitted by an NBC executive demonstrated that Daniels lacked control over the timing of and material included in the documentary, Merchan concluded.

"Because Defendant's claims are purely speculative and unsupported, his subpoena and the demands therein are the very definition of a fishing expedition," Merchan said.

"The Court has considered Defendant's explanation for seeking this court's permission to rifle through the privileged documents of a news organization and finds that he has not shouldered the very heavy burden necessary to overcome NY civil rights law," the judge wrote.

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