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Judge denies Trump's plea to suspend hush-money trial until Supreme Court verdict on immunity


In a blow to Donald Trump's legal strategy, a judge on Wednesday denied his request to postpone his hush money criminal trial. Trump had sought to delay the trial until the Supreme Court ruled on his claims of presidential immunity in a separate criminal case.

This decision marks yet another setback for the former president's attempts to delay the highly significant trial. There are still several more that are pending.

Judge Juan M. Merchan of Manhattan has deemed the request as untimely, stating that Trump's legal team had numerous chances to address the issue of immunity before last month. However, they only raised the matter after the deadline for pretrial motions had already expired.


In a six-page decision, the judge expressed doubts about the defence's motives and the timing of their March 7 filing.


Attorneys representing Donald Trump, the Republican candidate expected to secure the nomination, requested a postponement of the trial in New York until the resolution of his immunity claim in the election interference case in Washington, D.C.


Trump argues that he is shielded from prosecution for actions that are claimed to be related to his official duties while in office. In the hush-money case, his lawyers have not presented that as a defence.

However, they have contended that certain evidence, such as Trump's social media posts regarding his former lawyer Michael Cohen, should be excluded from the trial due to his immunity protections as president.


On April 25, the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments, which conveniently falls a week and a half after the commencement of jury selection in the hush-money case.


Todd Blanche, the lawyer representing Trump, has chosen not to provide any comments at this time. The Manhattan district attorney's office has chosen not to provide a comment at this time.


In his Washington criminal case, Trump initially brought up the matter of immunity. The case revolves around accusations that he actively sought to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election, leading up to the violent riot carried out by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

In his ruling, Merchan made a clear differentiation between the Washington case, which he referred to as the Federal Insurrection Matter, and the hush-money case under his jurisdiction.


According to the judge, President Trump is attempting to invoke presidential immunity to have the charges dismissed, claiming that he possesses "absolute immunity from federal criminal liability."

This legal manoeuvre is currently taking place in Washington. According to reports, Trump is allegedly attempting to prevent the presentation of evidence related to the alleged "pressure campaign" he supposedly conducted against Cohen and other witnesses in the hush-money case.


In the hush money case, there are allegations that Trump manipulated his company's internal records to conceal the true purpose of payments made to his former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Cohen played a role in suppressing negative stories during Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. In addition to other matters, Cohen allegedly made a payment of $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels to prevent her from publicly discussing her alleged affair with Donald Trump, which reportedly took place several years prior.

Last year, Trump entered a plea of not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He vehemently denies any sexual encounter with Daniels, with his legal team asserting that the payments to Cohen were valid legal expenses and not connected to any attempt to conceal information.

The trial involving hush-money payments, which is the first of four criminal cases against Trump set to be heard by a jury, was initially slated to commence on March 25. Merchan rescheduled the event to April 15 due to objections from Trump's lawyers regarding a sudden release of documents from a previous federal investigation that resulted in Cohen's imprisonment.

Trump and his lawyers have persistently advocated for additional delays, leveraging complaints about Merchan and apprehensions about receiving a fair trial in heavily Democratic Manhattan to make last-minute appeals for more time. Trump expressed his desire for delays during a pretrial hearing in February, which aligns with his ongoing strategy.

Trump's legal team has once again called on Merchan to recuse himself from the case. In a letter to the judge, they raise concerns about a potential conflict of interest due to his daughter's involvement as a Democratic political consultant.

Last year, Merchan declined a similar recusal request. Exiting at this point would cause significant disruption to the trial schedule, requiring the appointment of a new judge and allowing them sufficient time to familiarise themselves with the case.


In recent filings, Trump's legal team has put forth the argument that the trial should be postponed indefinitely, citing concerns over the impact of "prejudicial media coverage" on the case. According to their argument, prosecutors in the liberal borough are attempting to present the case as a chance for jurors to weigh in on Trump's victory in the 2016 election.


Prosecutors expressed their disagreement on Wednesday, stating that the attention surrounding the extraordinary trial of the former president is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. They attributed the significant publicity to Trump's constant rhetoric and argued that it would be inappropriate to grant him a delay solely because of the media attention he actively seeks.


According to prosecutors, the jury selection process will include additional questions aimed at identifying and eliminating biassed individuals. This process will enable both sides to select a fair and unbiased jury.

In his ruling on Wednesday, Merchan expressed scepticism over Trump's delayed assertion of immunity. The judge pointed out that Trump's legal team had previously relied on presidential immunity in an unsuccessful attempt to transfer the hush-money case from state court to federal court last year.


In July of last year, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein dismissed Trump's assertion that the allegations in the hush money indictment were related to his official duties. The judge stated that the evidence strongly indicated that the matter was solely a personal matter for the President - an attempt to conceal an embarrassing event.


Payments made to an adult film star are not directly connected to the official actions of a President. "The colour of the President's official duties is not reflected in any way," Hellerstein added.

The legal question surrounding the immunity of a former president from federal prosecution for official acts taken in office remains untested.

According to prosecutors involved in the Washington case, they have stated that there is no such thing as immunity in this situation.

Furthermore, they argue that even if there were, the actions described in the indictment would not be considered official acts. Both the trial judge in Washington and a federal appeals court have issued rulings that are unfavourable to Trump.

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