Former President Donald Trump’s chances of moving the hush-money case from state court to federal venue are dwindling.
U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein indicated Tuesday that he is likely to rule against an effort to transfer the criminal case against Trump to federal court.
Hellerstein has repeatedly cast doubt on the argument Trump’s attorneys have made: The 2017 hush-money claims related to his role as president were indicted this year.
“It’s very clear that the conduct the president is accused of has nothing to do with anything under the color of his office,” Hellerstein told lawyers for Trump and the Manhattan district attorney’s office. – Half an hour.
The judge said that he will pronounce the verdict in the case in two weeks.
Trump pleaded not guilty in April in state criminal court to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to his role in hush payments at the end of his 2016 presidential campaign.
In court filings, prosecutors said Trump “repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to cover up criminal conduct that concealed harmful information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election.”
That included a $130,000 payment by her then-lawyer Michael Cohen to adult film star Stormi Daniels in the final days of the campaign to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump.
Cohen has said he made the payments at Trump’s direction, and Trump has acknowledged reimbursing Cohen through fees billed as legal fees. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels.
In their federal court filings, Trump’s lawyers argued that their client had only hired Cohen to “handle his personal affairs” since Cohen was elected president, so his actions with Cohen were “connected or related” to his official duties.
Matthew Colangelo of the DA’s office told the judge on Tuesday that Trump’s argument that he had ties to his presidential duties should be rejected.
“By definition, writing personal checks is not an official act, even if he is in the Oval Office,” Colangelo said during the hearing in federal court in Manhattan.
Hellerstein appears to agree with Colangelo, concluding that the investigation concluded that “Michael Cohen was hired by a public official as a private matter, to take care of private matters.”
Trump’s lawyers argue that the change in jurisdiction to federal court — which would open up additional protections for Trump — is necessary in part because the case is “politically motivated.”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office “decided to wrongfully prosecute President Trump for legal misconduct that occurred while in office as president,” Trump attorneys Todd Blanche and Susan Nechels argued in a filing ahead of Tuesday’s hearing.
The DA’s office has denied that characterization, saying Trump violated state law when he was charged in state court.
Attorneys also hammered Trump’s presidential immunity arguments in court filings.
“Nothing about this conduct is related to, related to, related to, or otherwise related to the official responsibility or authority of the President,” one of their filings said.
“No presidential duty or liability obligates defendant to make Cohen a $130,000 payment to an adult film actress in October 2016, agreeing to repay Cohen that payment before taking office in January 2017 and making regular payments later in 2017. His pre-existing and pre-presidential debt to complete.”
Hellerstein, 89, is at the helm of the controversy after both sides agreed he had no problems with him, even though he did legal work for the Trump firm Trump Equitable Fifth Avenue in the 1990s when he was in private practice.
He was appointed to the bench in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton.
The matter was originally assigned to U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams, but she recused herself as her husband, Greg Andres, investigated ties between the Trump 2016 campaign and Russia.
The district attorney’s indictment against Trump is the first case against a former president. Trump was indicted in a separate case in Florida on 37 federal felony counts of mishandling classified documents, including the intentional withholding of national security information, making false statements and representations, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
He pleaded not guilty in that case earlier this month.