Trump plans to drop lawyers' involvement in hush payments as part of impeachment defense

In his upcoming hush money trial, former President Donald Trump wants to argue that he doesn't think he's wrong because various prosecutors were involved in the underlying conduct that led to the charges against him.

In a public filing Tuesday in New York criminal court, Trump's lawyers said part of his defense was that he “did not have the requisite intent to commit the conduct alleged in the indictment.”

“President Trump wants these facts from witnesses…we expect them to testify about President Trump's awareness of the adviser's involvement in the alleged criminal conduct. This is not a proper counsel-of-counsel argument,” his attorneys wrote.

It's not a foregone conclusion that the judge overseeing the case will allow Trump to present evidence of his lawyers' involvement without expressly hearing the defense's advice.

The former president has been indicted on 34 counts related to allegedly concealing a $130,000 payment by his then-lawyer Michael Cohen to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign. The payment was to keep Daniels quiet about a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump. Trump has denied sleeping with Daniels, but has acknowledged paying Cohen.

Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney's office say Trump falsified documents about payments to Cohen. Trump admitted to the allegations against him. Jury selection in the trial will begin on March 25.

Trump had said he planned to use the “advice of counsel” argument, and Judge Juan Merchan told his lawyers to notify the DA's office by this week if they wanted to take that approach. The DA's office requested advance notice because under that plea they are entitled to more information about Trump's communications with his lawyers.

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In Tuesday's filing, Trump's lawyers said they would ask others involved in Cohen and Daniels' discussions about the former president's “awareness of the adviser's involvement.” But they won't use the formal advice of counsel defense, so the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office won't need to provide additional evidence.

“While President Trump intends to obtain evidence regarding the presence, involvement, and counsel of counsel at relevant events raising the charges in the indictment, he does not intend to assert a proper counsel-of-counsel argument,” Trump's lawyers wrote.

In a court filing made public Monday, Trump's lawyers asked Merson to delay the hearing until the U.S. Supreme Court issues a decision on the scope of the president's immunity in a federal election interference case in Washington, DC. request in the coming days.

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