Trump returns to New York courtroom for final hearing before hush money trial

(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump returns Thursday to the New York City courtroom where he pleaded not guilty last April to hush money charges for what’s expected to be final hearing in the case before his trial gets underway next month.

Trump entered the lower Manhattan courthouse shortly before 9 a.m. ET.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, alleging that Trump falsified Trump Organization records to hide payments he made to his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who allegedly used the money to kill stories about Trump’s long-denied extramarital affairs with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal just days before the 2016 election.

Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges and has denied all wrongdoing. His attorney Todd Blanche has argued in pretrial motions that the payments to Cohen were lawful money transfers from Trump’s own personal bank accounts.

“President Trump cannot be said to have falsified business records of the Trump Organization by paying his personal attorney using his personal bank accounts,” Blanche wrote.

The judge overseeing the case, Juan Manuel Merchan, scheduled Thursday’s hearing late last year to resolve pretrial motions and finalize the trial’s start date, which is currently scheduled for March 25.

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