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New York, April 13 – Former US President Donald Trump is heading back to New York City for a civil trial after filing a $500 million suit against his former lawyer, Michael Cohen — the prime witness against him in the criminal case against him.
In the case filed in a federal court in Florida on Wednesday, Trump alleged that Cohen had violated his contract with him as his lawyer, disclosed confidential information and spread “falsehoods”.
Cohen had acted as Trump’s “fixer” paying $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to buy her silence after she claimed to have had an affair with the former President.
That is one of the elements in the 34 charges filed last week against Trump by Manhattan Prosecutor Alvin Bragg who alleges that the payoff was illegally disguised as a lawyer’s fees.
Cohen was convicted on tax and election finance charges in connection with the payoff.
On Thursday, Trump is scheduled to participate in a legal process called deposition in connection with a $250 million civil lawsuit filed by New York’s Attorney General Letitia James against the former President, three of his children involved in his business and the Trump Organization alleging they falsified financial statements to obtain loans.
In a deposition, the accused or witnesses appear before lawyers away from a courtroom without the judge being present and their testimony and cross-examination are recorded and presented at trial to cut the actual trial time in court with a judge.
Last August, a deposition was taken with Trump in the case during which he is reported to have refused to answer about 400 questions claiming constitutional protection against being made to make self-incriminating statements.
He does not face prison term in the civil case, but that is a possibility if he is convicted in the New York criminal case or any others that arise in the ongoing investigations by a prosecutor in Georgia into whether he tried to manipulate the 2020 election results there or by a federal special attorney into his role in last year’s riot that resulted in an attack on the Capitol by his supporters and into his handling of secret documents.
On Tuesday, Trump told a Fox News interviewer that he intends to run for President in next year’s election even if he is convicted.
Asked if he would back out if convicted, Trump said: “I’d never drop out; it’s not my thing, I wouldn’t do it.”
The US Constitution does not bar a convict from running for President.
Adding to the web of litigation, Bragg filed a federal case against Republican Representative Jim Jordan, the chair of the House of Representatives Judicial Committee, to block the panel’s investigation into his prosecution of Trump.
Jordan has alleged that Bragg’s prosecution was political.
Meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee is bringing its battle with Bragg to his home turf holding a hearing on crime in the city.
The committee said that it would probe how what it called “Bragg’s pro-crime, anti-victim policies” contributed “to an increase in violent crime”.
Bragg had been criticised even by his own party leaders for being lax in prosecuting violent crimes or keeping violent offenders in custody.
Major crimes soared 22 per cent last year across New York City, but there are signs it is ebbing with a drop of 5.6 per cent in February.
The prosecutions against Trump are expected to gain momentum as the Republican Party campaigns for the presidential nomination get underway starting in August with the first candidate’s debate.
The only candidates to officially announce their run against Trump are former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and two Indian-Americans — Nikki Haley, a former member of his cabinet; and Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur and author.
Republican Senator Tim Scott, an African-American who was first appointed to the Senate by Haley when she was the governor of South Carolina, announced on Wednesday that he was setting up a committee to explore a run for the nomination.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is considered a front-runner to challenge Trump, has not announced his candidacy, and neither have former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who were considering joining the race.
Trump is far and away the leader for the Republican nomination to take on President Joe Biden, with 51.7 per cent support and a lead of 26.7 per cent over nearest rival DeSantis, according to an aggregation of polls by RealClear Politics.
Despite facing criminal charges Trump was 1.7 per cent ahead of Biden, 44.1 per cent to 42.7 per cent, according to the latest RealClear Politics aggregation, with Trump’s lead widening in two of the three polls conducted after his indictment on March 30.