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.
“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!!!”
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.