Trump lawyers to ask federal court to hear NY hush-money case


By Karen Freifeld

(Reuters) – Donald Trump’s lawyers will ask a U.S. federal judge on Tuesday to transfer from state court a criminal case accusing the former president of falsifying business records tied to a hush money payment to a porn star.

Trump asserts that federal court is the proper venue for the case, arguing that his actions were related to the presidency, that the charges involve federal election law, and that he is immune from state prosecution.

Trump, front-runnner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, pleaded not guilty in April in Manhattan to 34 state counts of falsifying business records to hide reimbursements to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 payment to silence porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had a sexual encounter with Trump. He denies it.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said Trump did not have to be present at the hearing.

A factor in determining jurisdiction is whether the charges relate to Trump’s presidency. His lawyers argue in court papers that he hired Cohen to handle his personal affairs because he was president and suggest that is enough of an association.

They also argue that he is charged with reimbursing Cohen for a payment made to influence the presidential election, that federal law preempts state law for federal elections, and that he is immune from state prosecution because he paid Cohen in 2017, during his presidency.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which brought the case, says the conduct had nothing to do with Trump’s duties as president.

“The existence of and connection to an underlying official act is not just tenuous here, but nonexistent,” prosecutors argued in a court filing on Friday.

Federal election law does not preempt state regulation of fraud, the prosecution says, and Trump is not immune from state prosecution because his actions involved no official duty.

Should the case remain in state court, it is scheduled for trial in March.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Howard Goller)

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