Trump fails to delay his hush money trial after appeals court rejects his pleas for third straight day

The former president wants to remove evidence he claims is covered by his ‘immunity’ defence

Alex Woodward
in New York
Wednesday 10 April 2024 22:28 BST
Donald Trump appears in New York court for hearing in hush money case

For a third consecutive day, a New York appeals court judge has rejected Donald Trump’s last-ditch attempts to stall his criminal trial on 34 charges connected to a hush money scheme to bury compromising stories of his alleged affairs.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump’s attorneys failed to convince an appellate court that the judge overseeing the criminal case has caused the former president “ongoing, unconstitutional and irreparable harms” and has denied Mr Trump’s chances at a fair trial.

State appeals court judges have already shot down two other attempts from Mr Trump’s attorneys to delay the trial this week. Jury selection is scheduled to begin on 15 April.

His latest appeal on Wednesday also challenged what they characterised as New York Justice Juan Merchan’s “refusal” to recuse himself from the trial.

They also challenged the judge’s refusal to hear Mr Trump’s argument that “presidential immunity” shields his “official acts” from prosecution.

The move from Mr Trump’s legal team marked yet another attempt to derail the case as it heads to his first-ever criminal trial – the first of four criminal cases against him headed to a jury, and the first-ever criminal trial against a president.

The filing on Wednesday followed rejections from state appeals court judges who shot down two attempts to delay the trial while he argues to move the case out of Manhattan and as he challenges a gag order that bars him from publicly attacking court staff and their families.

Last month, Mr Trump’s attorneys pressed Judge Merchan to take the trial off the calendar until the US Supreme Court decides whether the former president can claim “immunity” from prosecution in a separate case surrounding his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The nation’s highest court is not scheduled to hear that case until 25 April, the final day for oral arguments in this year’s session, and one week after the New York trial is scheduled to begin.

A ruling from the Supreme Court is likely to follow several weeks later. A federal judge and appeals court have already shot down his attempts to evade criminal prosecution using an “immunity” defence.

Donald Trump appears in a Manhattan criminal courtroom on 25 March
Donald Trump appears in a Manhattan criminal courtroom on 25 March (via REUTERS)

Mr Trump’s attorneys claim that statements Mr Trump made on Twitter and to news networks about his former attorney Michael Cohen in 2018 “implicate the concept of official acts for purposes of presidential immunity,” but the filing does not address the alleged repayment scheme that is central to the case – which took place months before Mr Trump entered the White House.

The trial is expected to rely on testimony from Cohen, who arranged a scheme to pay adult film star Stormy Daniels for her silence in the days before the 2016 election, according to prosecutors.

Following Mr Trump’s election victory, then-President Trump reimbursed his lawyer, who is expected to say in the upcoming trial that Mr Trump authorised his business to falsely file the payments as legal expenses.

Mr Trump’s Twitter account was “an official communications channel during his Presidency, to communicate with the public regarding matters of public concern,” according to Mr Trump’s attorneys Todd Blanche and Susan Nechles.

Attorneys asked Judge Merchan to adjourn the trial and schedule a hearing to remove evidence that would be considered “official acts” covered by that alleged immunity. They do not appear to argue that he is immune from the charges themselves.

Earlier this month, Judge Merchan rejected the “untimely” attempt to delay the case on those “immunity” arguments, stating that the former president had “myriad opportunities” to make his case but instead “strategically” waited to do so.

The judge also has declined to recuse himself from the case, against pressure from Mr Trump’s attorneys, who have accused him of an “unacceptable appearance of impropriety” because of his daughter’s political consulting work. The judge wrote in response that “the Court has examined its conscience and is certain in its ability to be fair and impartial.”

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