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Trump appeals decision keeping hush money case in state court

Former President Trump on Friday appealed a judge’s ruling that mandated his hush money criminal case be tried in state court in New York.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, a President Clinton appointee, ruled last week that the 34-count indictment was not connected to Trump’s role as president, rejecting his request to move the case to federal court in favor of prosecutors’ objections.

Trump attorneys Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles filed a notice of appeal Friday afternoon, the first step in taking the dispute to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Trump sought to remove the state case to federal court, arguing it must be transferred because it involves important federal questions, including whether he should face charges for alleged crimes that occurred while he was in office. Doing so would increase the potential jury pool, which is currently limited to the heavily-Democratic population of Manhattan.

“This case is unprecedented in our nation’s history,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in the nine-page filing when first seeking to remove the case in May. “Never before has a local elected prosecutor criminally prosecuted a defendant either for conduct that occurred entirely while the defendant was the sitting President of the United States or for conduct that related to federal campaign contribution laws.”

Hellerstein dismissed that argument when ruling on the case in July. 

“The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the matter was a purely a personal item of the President — a cover-up of an embarrassing event. Hush money paid to an adult film star is not related to a President’s official acts. It does not reflect in any way the color of the President’s official duties,” he wrote.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records over his alleged role in a hush money scheme ahead of the 2016 presidential election. He pleaded not guilty.

Hush money by itself is legal; Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) is prosecuting Trump over the manner in which he reimbursed his then-fixer, Michael Cohen, for making the $130,000 hush payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Bragg is connecting the allegedly falsified records to purported violations of campaign finance laws. 

When reached out to, Bragg’s office declined to comment.

A trial in the case is currently set for March 2024. Trump’s lawyers have a deadline late next month to file any motions in state court to dismiss the charges ahead of trial.

Earlier Friday, Bragg suggested during a radio interview on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show,” however, that the trial timeline could be delayed as a result of the other criminal investigations the former president faces.

“If our trial judge is reached out to by another judge, we will obviously consider everything in its totality,” Bragg said.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s office charged Trump with three additional counts in the classified records federal case Thursday, and prosecutors have signaled an indictment could be close in their probe over the transfer of power following the 2020 election.

In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) has signaled any charges against Trump would likely come in early August.

“In matters like this, judges will confer,” Bragg told WNYC.

“And I take a very broad lens on justice,” he continued. “We’ll obviously follow the directives of our court but won’t sit on ceremony in terms of what was charged first or things like that, if and when that’s presented.”

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