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Judge Rejects Trump’s Final Bid to Further Delay His Manhattan Criminal Trial

Judge Rejects Trump’s Final Bid to Further Delay His Manhattan Criminal Trial
Seth Wenig/AP

New York — In a decisive ruling, Justice Juan Merchan, the judge overseeing Donald Trump’s upcoming criminal trial in Manhattan, has denied the former president’s last-ditch attempt to postpone the trial.

Trump sought to delay proceedings until after the Supreme Court decides on his bid for “presidential immunity” in another criminal case. The trial centers around an episode predating Trump’s presidency: his alleged agreement to pay hush money during the final weeks of the 2016 campaign to conceal an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels.

However, some of the evidence pertains to actions Trump took after assuming office. Trump’s legal team raised concerns about prosecutors from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office introducing evidence related to a 2018 “pressure campaign.”

This campaign allegedly aimed to intimidate Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who arranged the hush money payments to Daniels. Cohen is expected to be a key witness for the prosecution. Trump’s bid for “presidential immunity” hinges on the claim that he is shielded from criminal charges for actions taken while in office.

Scholars and judges generally agree that any immunity would only cover charges stemming from a president’s official duties.

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on this matter in a separate federal election case, where Trump faces charges related to spreading lies about the 2020 election. Justice Merchan emphasized that Trump’s timing in raising the immunity argument raises questions about its sincerity.

Trump filed these requests just 17 days before the trial’s original start date, casting doubt on the true purpose of the motion. Waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision would have further delayed the Manhattan trial. Merchan’s ruling puts an end to Trump’s efforts to stall the proceedings. The trial, initially scheduled for April 15, was recently delayed by three weeks to allow lawyers to review a last-minute set of documents.

With the trial now proceeding as planned, the legal battle over hush money payments and presidential immunity enters a critical phase. In the words of Justice Merchan, “Defendant had myriad opportunities to raise the claim of presidential immunity well before March 7, 2024” — a clear signal that the court expects a fair and timely trial.