June 14th, 2024

New York appeals court rejects Donald Trump’s third request to delay April 15 hush money trial

By Michael R. Sisak And Jake Offenhartz, The Associated Press on April 10, 2024.

FILE - Former President Donald Trump sits at the defense table with his legal team in a Manhattan court, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in New York. The first-ever trial of a former U.S. president will feature allegations that Trump falsified business records while compensating one of his lawyers, Michael Cohen, for burying stories about extramarital affairs that arose during the 2016 presidential race.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)

NEW YORK (AP) – For the third straight day, a New York appeals court has rejected an attempt by Donald Trump’s lawyers to delay the former president’s hush money criminal trial.

Trump’s lawyers had argued that the trial should be put off indefinitely while they fight to remove the judge, Juan M. Merchan, and challenge several of his rulings.

Justice Ellen Gesmer’s ruling is another loss for Trump, who has tried repeatedly to get the trial postponed. The decision means the first of Trump’s four criminal trials will start as scheduled on April 15.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he falsified business records to hide the true nature of payments made in connection with a scheme to suppress damaging stories about him during his 2016 presidential campaign.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

NEW YORK (AP) – Donald Trump’s lawyers tried Wednesday for a third straight day to get a New York appeals court to delay his hush money criminal trial. Among other grievances, they argued the former president and presumptive Republican nominee should be on the campaign trail rather than “in a courtroom defending himself” starting next Monday.

In their latest salvo, Trump’s lawyers asked the state’s mid-level appeals court to halt the case indefinitely while they fight to remove the trial judge and challenge several of his pretrial rulings, which they argue have seriously hindered his defense.

“We’re here for this stay because there are restrictions in place that cannot operate in a constitutional way in a trial environment,” Trump lawyer Emil Bove argued at an emergency hearing Wednesday held in a court basement lobby because the regular courtroom was in use.

“It’s an incredibly important trial. It’s a historic, unprecedented proceeding,” Bove said, adding: “This can only be done once and it must be done right.”

Adding to a litany of complaints registered this week with the appeals court, Bove argued that trial Judge Juan Merchan “exceeded his authority” in refusing to postpone the case until the Supreme Court rules on an immunity claim Trump raised in another of his criminal cases. Trump’s lawyers argue some evidence in the hush-money case could be excluded if the Supreme Court rules in his favor.

Merchan last week declared that request untimely, ruling that Trump’s lawyers had “myriad opportunities” to raise the immunity issue before they finally did so in March, well after a deadline for pretrial motions had passed.

Steven Wu, the appellate chief for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, echoed that sentiment at Wednesday’s emergency hearing. He argued that Trump’s lawyers had months to raise immunity and other issues and should not be rewarded with a delay at the eleventh hour.

“Staying the trial at this point would be incredibly disruptive,” Wu said. “The court, the people, witnesses have made extraordinary efforts to make sure this trial can take place on Monday.”

“There’s a powerful public interest to ensure this criminal trial goes forward,” he added.

Justice Ellen Gesmer presided over the emergency hearing from an armchair, facing a hodgepodge of wooden seats, a collapsable table and a restroom. She did not say when she would rule.

Paperwork related to Trump’s latest appeal was sealed and no documents were publicly available.

Trump’s hush-money case is the first of his four criminal indictments slated to go to trial and would be the first criminal trial ever of a former president.

Trump is accused of falsifying his company’s records to hide the nature of payments to his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who helped Trump bury negative stories during his 2016 campaign. Cohen’s activities included paying porn actor Stormy Daniels $130,000 to suppress her claims of an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump years earlier.

Trump pleaded not guilty last year to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He has denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels. His lawyers argue the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses.

Trump already struck out twice this week with the appeals court. One appeals court judge Monday rejected his bid to delay the trial while he seeks to move it out of Manhattan. A different judge on Tuesday denied a request, framed as part of a lawsuit against Merchan, that the trial be delayed while Trump fights a gag order imposed on him in recent weeks.

Trump’s lawyers had asked Merchan last month to adjourn the New York trial indefinitely until Trump’s immunity claim in his Washington, D.C., election interference case is resolved.

Trump contends he is immune from prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office. His lawyers have not raised that as a defense in the hush-money case, but they argued that some evidence – including Trump’s social media posts about former lawyer Cohen – is from his time as president and should be excluded from the trial because of his immunity protections.

The Supreme Court is to hear arguments in that matter on April 25.

“This is a situation where a judge has exceeded his authority under circumstances with very, very serious federalism implications,” Bove argued at Wednesday’s emergency hearing.

Trump’s lawyers also renewed their argument that Merchan should step aside from the case. They’ve accused him of bias and a conflict of interest, citing his daughter’s work as the head of a firm whose clients have included President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other Democrats.

Trump’s lawyers filed a formal recusal request with Merchan last week. The judge rejected a similar request in August and has not ruled on Trump’s pending request. The judge has also yet to rule on another defense delay request, which claims that Trump won’t get a fair trial because of “prejudicial media coverage.”

“Their recusal arguments are completely meritless,” Wu argued.

Trump’s lawyers also took issue with a protocol Merchan put in place last month to manage a flood of last-minute court filings. And, they revisited their complaints – aired at an emergency hearing Tuesday – about the gag order Merchan imposed on Trump last month that bars him from making public comments about witnesses, jurors and others regarding their connections to the case.

Trump’s ability to campaign “is something that’s protected under the First Amendment, for President Trump and the American people,” Bove argued.

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