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Trump plans to lean on attorneys’ involvement in hush money payments as part of trial defense – NBC News

In his upcoming hush money trial, former President Donald Trump intends to argue that he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong because various lawyers were involved with the underlying conduct that gave rise to the charges against him.

Trump attorneys said in a New York criminal court filing made public Tuesday that part of his defense will be that he “lacked the requisite intent to commit the conduct charged in the indictment.”

“President Trump intends to elicit these facts from witnesses…whom we expect will testify about President Trump’s awareness of counsel’s involvement in the charged conduct. This is not a formal advice-of-counsel defense,” his lawyers 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 invoking the advice of counsel defense.

The former president has been hit with 34 charges related to allegations that he covered up a $130,000 payment that his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign. The payment was intended to have Daniels keep quiet about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied that he slept with Daniels, but he has acknowledged repaying Cohen.

Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office say Trump falsified the documentation surrounding payments to Cohen. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. Jury selection in the trial is scheduled to begin March 25.

Trump had said that he planned to use an “advice of counsel” defense, and Judge Juan Merchan had told his attorneys to notify the DA’s office by this week if he intended to take that approach. The DA’s office had requested advance notice because under that line of argument they would be entitled to more information about Trump’s communications with his attorneys.

In Tuesday’s filing, Trump’s lawyers said they would ask Cohen and other people who’d been involved in the Daniels’ discussions about the former president’s “awareness of counsel’s involvement.” But, they added, they would not use a formal advice of counsel defense, so there’s no need for them to make more evidence available to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office.

“While President Trump intends to elicit evidence concerning the presence, involvement and advice of lawyers in relevant events giving rise to the charges in the Indictment, he does not intend to assert a formal advice-of-counsel defense,” Trump’s attorneys wrote.

In a court filing made public Monday, Trump’s lawyers asked Merchan to delay the trial until after the U.S. Supreme Court issues a decision about the scope of presidential immunity in the federal election interference case in Washington, D.C. The DA’s office is expected to formally oppose that request in the coming days.

Adam Reiss

Adam Reiss is a reporter and producer for NBC and MSNBC.

Lisa Rubin

Lisa Rubin is an MSNBC legal correspondent and a former litigator.

Tom Winter

Tom Winter is a New York-based correspondent covering crime, courts, terrorism and financial fraud on the East Coast for the NBC News Investigative Unit.

Dareh Gregorian

Dareh Gregorian is a politics reporter for NBC News.