Trump asks to delay hush money trial until US Supreme Court reviews immunity claim

FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Trump holds a watch party event to mark the Super Tuesday primary elections at his Mar-a-Lago property

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Donald Trump on Monday asked the New York judge overseeing his criminal case on charges stemming from hush money paid to a porn star to delay the trial until the U.S. Supreme Court finishes reviewing his claim of presidential immunity in a separate case.

The first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president is set to begin on March 25 in a New York state court in Manhattan.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsification of business records.

Prosecutors say he directed his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, to pay porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet before the 2016 election about a sexual encounter she says they had a decade earlier, and then falsely recorded his reimbursement to Cohen as legal expenses.

Trump denies the encounter with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

The move was the latest by Trump seeking to delay the four upcoming criminal trials he faces until closer to, or even after, his expected Nov. 5 election rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

The Supreme Court last month handed Trump a win when it agreed to hear in late April his argument that he is immune from federal prosecution for trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat, a decision that will delay the start of any trial by at least several months.

The court, by contrast, moved faster in acting to ensure that Trump remained on Colorado's primary ballot, rejecting an effort to disqualify him the day before the contest.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all criminal cases, which he has termed "election interference."


In their court filing on Monday, Trump's lawyers said the outcome of the Supreme Court's review was relevant to the hush money case because prosecutors were seeking to present evidence of statements Trump made while he was president.

Last month, prosecutors said they planned to introduce evidence of a "pressure campaign" by Trump in 2018 to ensure Cohen did not cooperate with a federal investigation into the payment to Daniels. Cohen pleaded guilty that year to violating campaign finance law.

In their court filing on Monday, Trump's lawyers called prosecutors' claim of a pressure campaign "fictitious." They said Trump's social media posts about Cohen were "official communications" about "matters of public concern" and thus immune from state prosecution.

"Without immunity from criminal prosecution based on official acts, the President's political opponents will seek to influence and control his or her decisions via de facto extortion," Trump's lawyers wrote.

A spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney's office, which brought the charges, declined to comment.

Last year, Trump made a similar argument as part of an unsuccessful push to move the hush money case from state court to federal court. In denying Trump's request in July 2023, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein wrote that the payment to Daniels "was a purely personal item."

"Hush money paid to an adult film star is not related to a President's official acts," Hellerstein wrote.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York, editing by Scott Malone and Deepa Babington)