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Hush money judge rejects Trump’s immunity claims as untimely

A New York judge rejected former President Trump’s presidential immunity claims in his hush money case on Wednesday, saying Trump waited too long to raise the defense. 

Justice Juan Merchan’s ruling removes another pathway for Trump to delay his upcoming hush money trial, which is slated to become the first criminal trial of a former president on April 15. 

Unlike his other three criminal indictments, Trump had not argued he was immune from his 34 charges in the hush money case, which stems from payments made before he was president. 

But the former president in recent weeks began insisting that some of prosecutors’ desired trial evidence would be precluded if the Supreme Court agrees with his immunity claims in another cases. Trump had hoped to delay the trial until after the Supreme Court decides his immunity case on merits; oral arguments are scheduled for April 25.

Prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office opposed Trump’s motion.

“Defendant’s motion is DENIED in its entirety as untimely. The Court declines to consider whether the doctrine of presidential immunity precludes the introduction of evidence of purported official presidential acts in a criminal proceeding,” Merchan wrote. 

Merchan’s ruling moves Trump’s hush money prosecution one step closer to reaching trial. Trump does still has a pending effort to adjourn the schedule because of “prejudicial pretrial publicity,” however.

But barring a last-minute twist, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) is set to take Trump to trial in less than two weeks on 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Bragg has accused Trump of criminally concealing a hush money payment to hide damaging information from voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Trump pleaded not guilty.

The ruling comes as similar decisions on Trump’s immunity claims have caused delays in his other criminal cases.

Trump’s claims of presidential immunity reached the Supreme Court earlier this year in his federal election interference case, after the justices agreed to weigh whether a president can be criminally charged for their actions while serving in the office.  

The trial judge in Washington, D.C., overseeing Trump’s case and a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the former president’s theory that he cannot be criminally prosecuted. 

“For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant,” the D.C. Circuit panel wrote in its 57-page decision earlier this year. “We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter.”  

He has also claimed presidential immunity in his federal classified documents case and Georgia election interference case, though the judges in those cases have not yet weighed in on the matter.

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