Judge rejects Trump effort to move New York criminal case to federal court


Former President Donald Trump’s attempt to move his “hush money” criminal case from New York State to federal jurisdiction has been rejected by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled that the payments made to Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, which form the basis of the 34 felony counts of falsification of business records in New York State, were not related to Trump’s service as president.

In his ruling, Judge Hellerstein stated that Trump had failed to demonstrate that the conduct charged in the indictment was performed by or for the President under the official acts of a President. Additionally, Trump’s claim of immunity from state prosecution for acts performed during his federal duties was also dismissed by the judge.

The case revolves around transactions between Trump and Cohen, with Manhattan prosecutors alleging that the payments were concealed reimbursements for a “hush money” payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s legal team argued that the case should be in federal court as the payments were made while he was president, but Hellerstein asserted that reimbursing Cohen for the hush money and falsifying business records did not constitute the performance of a constitutional duty.

Following the judge’s decision, a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg expressed satisfaction with the ruling and looked forward to proceeding with the case in New York State Supreme Court.

However, Trump’s presidential campaign criticized the decision and accused Bragg, a Democrat, of targeting Trump out of political animus. They vowed to continue pursuing legal avenues to move the case to federal court.

Addressing Trump’s accusation of political motivation behind the indictment, Hellerstein stated that there was a rational basis for the grand jury’s decision to indict Trump.

The effort to move the case has coincided with Trump’s request for a new state court judge, seeking the recusal of New York Judge Juan Merchan. Trump’s motion claimed that Merchan encouraged the prosecution’s key witness, former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, to testify against Trump’s companies in a previous tax evasion case. Additionally, they pointed to Merchan’s daughter’s work for a Democratic consulting firm and his small campaign donations to Democratic groups during the 2020 election cycle.

Bragg’s office opposed the recusal request, and as of the news report, Judge Merchan had not yet announced a decision on the matter.

The rejection of the effort to move the case came after Trump announced receiving a letter from the Justice Department indicating he is a target in another criminal investigation. Special counsel Jack Smith is overseeing this probe, which focuses on allegations that Trump and his allies sought to undermine the 2020 presidential election following Trump’s defeat. Smith is also leading a federal case against Trump involving 37 felony counts related to alleged “willful retention” of national security information after his presidency.

Trump has consistently denied any wrongdoing in all these cases, describing them as politically motivated attempts to use law enforcement as a weapon against him. He has made similar claims against other district attorneys, including Fulton County, Georgia district attorney Fani Willis, who has indicated the possibility of charges against Trump and his allies for their alleged efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.

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