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Judge will weigh whether Donald Trump’s New York criminal case should be moved to federal court

June 27, 2023 Associated Press
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A U.S. judge is set to hear arguments Tuesday over President Donald Trump’s attempt to move his criminal case in New York out of the state court, where he was indicted, to a federal court where he could potentially try to get the case dismissed.

Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein will listen to the afternoon arguments, though he isn’t expected to immediately rule.

Trump’s lawyers sought to move the case to Manhattan federal court soon after Trump pleaded not guilty in April to charges that he falsified his company’s business records to hide hush money payouts aimed at burying allegations of extramarital sexual encounters.

While requests to move criminal cases from state to federal court are rarely granted, the prosecution of Trump is unprecedented.

The Republican’s lawyers say the charges, while related to his private company’s records, involve things he did while he was president. U.S. law allows criminal prosecutions to be removed from state court if they involve actions taken by federal government officials as part of their official duties.

Trump is alleged to have falsified records to cover up payments made in 2017 to his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to compensate him for orchestrating payouts in 2016 to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump has denied having had affairs with either woman.

Trump’s lawyers have said those payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses and not part of any cover-up.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which brought the case, has argued that nothing about the payoffs to either Cohen or the women involved Trump’s official duties as president.

If a judge agrees to move the case to federal court, Trump’s lawyers could then try to get the case dismissed on the grounds that federal officials are immune from criminal prosecution over actions they take as part of their official job duties.

Moving the case to federal court would also mean that jurors would potentially be drawn not only from Manhattan, where Trump is wildly unpopular, but also a handful of suburban counties north of the city where he has more political support.

In state court, a criminal trial was set for March 25 in the thick of the primary season before next year’s November presidential election.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg pursued the case after Trump left office. He is the first former president ever charged with a crime.

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