Donald Trump loses immunity battle to delay hush money criminal trial

A New York judge has rejected Donald Trump’s plea to delay his upcoming criminal trial until after the Supreme Court finally rules on the former president’s claim of presidential immunity. Back in March, Trump urged Judge Juan Merchan to delay the trial, but Merchan has said that Trump raised the argument too late.

A New York judge has rejected Donald Trump’s plea to delay his criminal trial with immunity defense (Photographer: Daniel Steinle/Bloomberg)(Bloomberg)

The trial will begin on April 15. Trump has been accused of and charged with falsifying business records by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on April 4, 2023.

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Why did Donald Trump want to delay the trial?

Trump previously said that if the Supreme Court reviewed the scope of presidential immunity in his federal election interference case, the risk of having to re-try the case would significantly reduce. This is because the New York court failed to apply the immunity doctrine properly. The oral arguments have been scheduled on April 25.

Trump’s attorneys are trying to keep some evidence out of the case pertaining to statements that he made about two key prosecution witnesses: former Trump attorney Michael Cohen and adult film star Stormy Daniels. Merchan said on Wednesday, April 4, that the former president had been on notice that prosecutors were going to use evidence of “the alleged pressure campaign” on the two of them.

“The Defendant had ample notice that the People were in possession of, and intended to use, the various statements allegedly made by Defendant on social media, in public, and in various interviews. He was also well aware that the defense of presidential immunity, even if unsuccessful, might be available to him,” the judge wrote, according to NBC News.

Trump pleaded not guilty to charges that he falsified business records related to money he had paid to Cohen. He was accused of doing so in an attempt to reimburse him for a $130,000 hush money payment he made to Daniels in 2016. Trump denied Daniels’ claims that she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Cohen later pleaded guilty to related charges.

In Wednesday’s ruling, Merchan noted that Trump attempted to raise an immunity defence last year while seeking to have the Manhattan district attorney’s case moved to federal court. US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein rejected that effort.

“The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the matter was a purely a personal item of the President — a cover-up of an embarrassing event. Hush money paid to an adult film star is not related to a President’s official acts,” Hellerstein wrote in his ruling at the time.

Merchan said that although Trump tried to use the defence last year, he “strategically waited until March 7” to raise it in the state case. Calling the delay “unjustifiable,” Merchan said it “raises real questions about the sincerity and actual purpose of the motion.”

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