Trump asks to delay hush money trial until Supreme Court reviews immunity claim

Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump
Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump

Donald Trump made a new push Monday to delay his trial over alleged hush-money payments to a porn star, asking the judge to pause the case until the US’s top court rules on his separate presidential-immunity bid.

Lawyers for the former president — who has repeatedly tried to push back the hush-money criminal trial until after November’s presidential election — argued that the case should be put on hold because the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office may present evidence of Trump’s statements made while president.

Jurors could be barred from hearing such evidence depending on how the US Supreme Court rules on the immunity issue, Trump’s lawyers claimed.

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Saturday in Georgia. AP
Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Saturday in Georgia. AP

The immunity case involves whether Trump, now the leading GOP presidential candidate, should be granted blanket protection from prosecution in his federal 2020 election interference case because it involved “official acts” he took while president.

The Manhattan case involving porn star Stormy Daniels and Trump’s alleged affair with her is slated for jury selection on March 25.

The DA’s office has said it may present evidence of the then-president’s 2018 “pressure campaign” from the Oval Office to threaten his ex-fixer Michael Cohen into not cooperating with a federal probe into $130,000 in hush-money payments made to Daniels.

The high court has agreed to hear arguments on Trump’s immunity case April 25. Regardless of the outcome, the April hearing date potentially pushes his related election-interference trial to next year, handing a potential major win to Team Trump.

If the Republican recaptures the presidency, he could order his Justice Department to drop the case, which is currently pending in DC federal court.

Trump, 77, has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of felony falsifying business records in the hush-money case.

Prosecutors say he covered up Cohen’s payment to Daniels by lying on company documents that he was reimbursing Cohen for “legal services.”

The Manhattan case involving porn star Stormy Daniels (pictured) and Trump’s alleged affair with her is slated for jury selection on March 25. Getty Images
The Manhattan case involving porn star Stormy Daniels (pictured) and Trump’s alleged affair with her is slated for jury selection on March 25. Getty Images

The hush-money payments themselves — made to hide an embarrassing story about Trump’s affair on his wife Melania from voters before the 2016 election — breach campaign finance and local election laws, the DA’s office said.

Cohen, who pleaded guilty in a separate federal case and served prison time for the payoffs, is expected to testify that he paid Daniels at Trump’s behest.

Trump’s lawyers asked Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan on Monday to both pause the hush-money case until the Supreme Court rules, and to bar the DA’s office from presenting evidence based on Trump’s activities as president either way.

But a federal judge has already shot down Trump’s argument that the alleged hush money itself is presidential activity that Trump should not be able to be prosecuted over.

“Hush money paid to an adult film star is not related to a President’s official acts,” US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein wrote in a July 2023 ruling that rejected Trump’s bid to move the case from state to federal court.

“The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the matter was purely a personal item of the president — a cover-up of an embarrassing event,” the judge added.

Trump’s lawyers have argued that Trump, and any other president, can’t be convicted of a crime — even the assassination of one of their political rivals —  if they are not impeached first by Congress.

A DC federal appeals court swatted down that argument in February, but the back-and-forth on the immunity question caused a judge to still push back the trial date in the election case.

Trump is charged in that case with conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election in efforts that reached a boiling point when his supporters stormed the US Capitol on Jan 6, 2021, and disrupted Congress as it was in the process of certifying the results of the previous November’s presidential election, which President Biden won.

The Manhattan hush-money case includes less serious charges. But Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg has described it as an election interference case as well, saying Trump paid off Daniels out of fear that her planned story in the National Enquirer tabloid about their secret tryst would have further damaged his reputation with female voters after the release of a recording of Trump bragging about trying to cheat on his wife and grabbing women by their genitals.

Trump has also described the hush-money case as “election interference” — but for his own reason.

Trump says the case is “election interference” because, barring a delay, he’ll be forced to abandon the campaign trail — where he, as the presumptive Republican nominee, is expected to have a bruising battle with the Democrat Biden — to attend the trial.

As with all defendants in criminal cases, Trump will be required to be at the defense table from when a pool of jurors begins being screened to when the jury renders its verdict.