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Trump seeks delay of New York “hush money” trial as Supreme Court weighs presidential immunity

Just two weeks before his first criminal trial is scheduled to begin in New York, former President Donald Trump has once again sought to push back its start.

In a motion filed March 7 and made public Monday, Trump’s attorneys asked Manhattan Judge Juan Merchan to delay the trial, which is currently set for March 25, until after the Supreme Court rules on whether Trump is shielded from criminal prosecution by “presidential immunity” in another one of his criminal cases. Lower federal courts found that no such immunity exists, and Trump asked the Supreme Court to review those rulings last month. The justices agreed, and arguments are scheduled for April 25.

“The adjournment is warranted to ensure proper adjudication of the presidential immunity defense and to prevent improper evidence of official acts from being used in the unprecedented fashion apparently contemplated by the People,” wrote Trump’s attorneys. They pointed to filings by the state indicating that prosecutors planned to enter several pieces of evidence from 2018, when Trump was in the White House.

The New York case stems from a “hush money” payment made by an attorney for Trump to adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in the days before the 2016 election. Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsification of business records tied to payments reimbursing the attorney, Michael Cohen, in 2017. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies all wrongdoing.

Trump previously sought to have the state case moved to federal court in 2023. A federal judge rejected that effort, writing that he didn’t believe the reimbursements were tied to Trump’s service as president.

“Reimbursing Cohen for advancing hush money to Stephanie Clifford cannot be considered the performance of a constitutional duty,” wrote U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein. “Falsifying business records to hide such reimbursement, and to transform the reimbursement into a business expense for Trump and income to Cohen, likewise does not relate to a presidential duty.”

Hellerstein also wrote that Trump “has expressly waived any argument premised on a theory of absolute presidential immunity.”

Trump had argued that his payments were “official acts,” an argument repeated in his latest filing.

“There are several types of evidence that implicate the concept of official acts for purposes of presidential immunity, and therefore must be precluded,” his attorneys wrote.

A spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg declined to comment.

At a June 2023 hearing before Hellerstein, an attorney for Bragg argued the reimbursements to Cohen represented “personal payments to a personal lawyer” for Trump.

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