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Trump’s hush money sentencing may be delayed over immunity ruling


Trump’s hush money sentencing may be delayed over immunity ruling

NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s sentencing in his New York hush money case may be postponed from next week in light of Monday’s Supreme Court immunity ruling, with the Manhattan district attorney saying he is not opposed to a delay requested by Trump’s lawyers so they can seek to vacate his conviction.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office noted in a letter to the court Tuesday that sentencing would have to be delayed from July 11 for the defense to make its case about how the Supreme Court’s decision could affect Trump’s state court prosecution.

Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to an adult-film actress ahead of the 2016 presidential election was based in part on evidence of meetings and communications that occurred while he was president.

In a historic and far-reaching decision Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that presidents have broad immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts and that evidence cannot be used to prove alleged private criminal activity if that evidence is part of a president performing his official duties.

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan has previously ruled that Trump’s conduct in the falsifying records case has nothing to do with his official duties as president, a decision Merchan made when rejecting a request by Trump’s lawyers to postpone the trial until after the Supreme Court’s ruling on immunity. The Supreme Court ruling was sparked by a different criminal case, Trump’s federal election-interference trial in D.C. But it may affect the former president’s other cases, as well.

Merchan must now rule on whether to formally adjourn the sentencing. It is scheduled to happen days before the Republican National Convention, where Trump is expected to formally be selected as his party’s nominee for president in November’s election.

Trump attorneys Todd Blanche and Emil Bove requested a July 10 filing deadline to lay out their arguments in a motion. Prosecutors have asked for a response deadline on July 24, two weeks later. If that schedule is granted, it would postpone the sentencing for weeks at minimum.

Even as prosecutors said they would not oppose a delay, they also said in their letter that the defense arguments about how the Supreme Court ruling should affect the New York case are “without merit.”

Since the start of the case, lawyers for Trump have argued that he should be immune from prosecution because much of the alleged conduct occurred while Trump was at the White House. While the payoff to adult-film star Stormy Daniels took place in 2016, weeks before Trump was elected, his reimbursements to his former lawyer Michael Cohen occurred in 2017.

Those reimbursements were falsely classified as legal expenses and were not reported on Trump’s campaign spending disclosures.

Jurors in the trial were shown evidence and heard testimony related to conduct that occurred while Trump was in office. Included in that were incriminating tweets from the account Trump used as president.

Trump’s attorneys argued before the trial began that certain evidence the prosecution was slated to introduce should have been barred by the immunity doctrine, and Merchan said he would rule on individual immunity claims during the trial as they came up. The defense said in its letter that prosecutors relied heavily “on official-acts evidence, including witness testimony regarding events in the Oval Office that [the prosecution] described as ‘devastating.’”

“Under [the Supreme Court ruling], this official-acts evidence should never have been put before the jury,” Blanche and Bove wrote.

It is possible that ligation over the application of the Supreme Court’s decision to the Manhattan district attorney’s case could create a cascade of bids for delay, as the issue is now one of first impression. If Merchan decides that the conviction will stand, Trump’s side probably will immediately seek a stay of sentencing from the appellate court.

The complication comes as the 2024 presidential race intensifies after last week’s televised debate between Trump and President Biden. Both candidates were seen as having significant flaws, but there was a particular focus on Biden for the various times he appeared confused or unable to collect his thoughts.

Trump and his campaign have sought to capitalize on Biden’s perceived decline even as the former president faces four criminal indictments and civil court judgments totaling more than $550 million in separate matters for offenses including business fraud, defamation and sexual abuse.

If Trump’s conviction survives post-verdict motions, he faces up to four years in prison in the false-records case. It is unlikely Trump will stand trial for any of the other three criminal matters. Two of them relate to his alleged interference efforts in the 2020 election and another relates to the alleged illegal retention of highly sensitive government records after he left office.

In Trump’s federal case in Washington related to Jan. 6, 2021, the one that was under consideration in the Supreme Court decision, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan must wait until early August to begin to sort out how the court ruling will curb the case brought by special counsel Jack Smith and whether the scope of evidence in that case must be narrowed.

In that matter, Trump is accused of trying to undo the legitimate results of the 2020 election.

Trump and his attorneys deny all charges and insist that he is being targeted for political reasons.

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