All Eyes on Trump’s ‘Hush Money’ Case After Jan. 6 Case Postponed

The postponement of President Trump’s Jan. 6 trial in Washington sets up his “hush money” case in New York as the first criminal trial of a former US president.

A judge’s recent decision to postpone the trial date for former President Donald Trump’s election interference case in Washington means that his next scheduled trial in the so-called “hush money” case in New York will make history as the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to vacate the March 4 trial date in the election interference case brought by special counsel Jack Smith in Washington opens the door for President Trump’s next prosecution, scheduled to go to trial on March 25, 2024, in New York.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted President Trump in April 2023 with 34 counts of falsifying business records in order to conceal $130,000 in payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for keeping quiet about their alleged affair.
President Trump has denied the affair and any wrongdoing while calling the case a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
He has also objected to the March 25 trial date because it falls in the middle of the primary season, with the former president being the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination.

“Just had New York County Supreme Court hearing where I believe my First Amendment Rights, ‘Freedom of Speech,’ have been violated, and they forced upon us a trial date of March 25th, right in the middle of Primary season,” President Trump wrote in a May 23, 2023 post on Truth Social following a decision by Judge Juan Merchan of the New York Supreme Court to impose a gag order barring the former president from disclosing discovery materials in the case to the public.

“Very unfair, but this is exactly what the Radical Left Democrats wanted,” President Trump continued. “It’s called election interference, and nothing like this has ever happened in our country before!!!”

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Historic First Criminal Trial of Former US President

For President Trump, who faces a total of four indictments and 91 felony counts across a number of legal cases, the timing of trials is of the essence since he’s busy campaigning ahead of the November election.

His attorneys have asked the judge in the hush money case in New York to postpone the March 25 start date, but so far, Judge Merchan has resisted such calls.

The former president is due in court in Manhattan on Feb. 15 for a pretrial hearing where final details about the trial are expected to be ironed out.

Signs point to the New York case starting on time, with President Trump’s attorneys and prosecutors already discussing jury selection procedures with the judge, according to The Associated Press and other outlets.

If the hush money trial does start on time, it stands to make history as the first criminal trial ever of a former U.S. president.

Still, trial dates have been known to shift, with the recent move by Judge Chutkan to postpone the former president’s election interference trial in Washington being the latest example.

While Mr. Bragg has publicly signaled a willingness to delay his case so that others, particularly Mr. Smith’s election interference case in Washington, could go first, that now seems unlikely given the recent postponement of that trial.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks at a press conference after the sentencing hearing of the Trump Organization at the New York Supreme Court in New York, on Jan. 13, 2023. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks at a press conference after the sentencing hearing of the Trump Organization at the New York Supreme Court in New York, on Jan. 13, 2023. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

What’s the Case About?

Following President Trump’s arraignment in April 2023, the 16-page indictment and 13-page statement of facts allege that he falsified records related to multiple payments made to prevent the surfacing of negative information about him.

President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, said he made $130,000 in a number of separate payments to Stormy Daniels via a shell company that was then reimbursed by President Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, and recorded as legal expenses.

Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to violating campaign finance law in connection with the payments. In his plea deal, Mr. Cohen claimed he made the payments at President Trump’s direction and that he was reimbursed by President Trump’s company, even though he earlier claimed he paid the money out of his own pocket.

President Trump’s defense attorneys have signaled they intend to focus on the fact that Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to undermine his testimony.

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, leaves federal court after his sentencing in New York, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Craig Ruttle/AP)
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, leaves federal court after his sentencing in New York, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Craig Ruttle/AP)

‘Bootstrapping’ Misdemeanor Into Felony

A felony falsifying records charge of the type that Mr. Bragg has charged President Trump within the case requires a prosecutor to prove that it was done to hide the commission of a second crime.

Alan Dershowitz, a professor who taught at Harvard Law School for nearly 50 years, expressed skepticism of the legal grounds supporting Mr. Bragg’s case, saying he was using “made-up laws” to muster a politically motivated attack.

“Nobody should ever be arrested based on made-up laws or combining a federal and state statute,” Mr. Dershowitz told The Epoch Times in an interview in March when news broke that Trump could be criminally charged. “I taught criminal law for 50 years at Harvard, and the one rule was no creativity is permitted by prosecutors. The law has to be clear.”

Similarly, former U.S. Attorney General William Barr has criticized the indictment, calling it a “disgrace” and a “political hit job.”

In an interview at the National Review Institute Ideas Summit, Barr said he saw the case against Trump as prosecutorial abuse and weak on the merits.

“Judging from the news reports … it’s the archetypal abuse of the prosecutorial function to engage in a political hit job, and it’s a disgrace,” Barr said when asked to comment on the case.

Mr. Barr said that Mr. Bragg seemed to have ginned up a technical misdemeanor into a felony, adding that this was something that federal prosecutors had earlier chosen not to prosecute as a campaign violation.

“So for the state DA to try to use this as a way of bootstrapping himself into a felony is sort of outrageous,” Mr. Barr said.

Mr. Barr also said that for the case against the former president to have any traction, Mr. Bragg would have to prove Trump falsified records with intent to defraud.

Under New York state law, falsifying business records by itself is a misdemeanor, but if the records fraud was used to cover up or commit another crime, the charge could be elevated to a felony.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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