(NEW YORK) — A federal judge in New York has rejected former President Donald Trump’s request to move his hush-money criminal case into federal court.
“Trump has failed to show that the conduct charged by the Indictment is for or relating to any act performed by or for the President under color of the official acts of a President,” Judge Alvin Hellerstein wrote in his ruling Wednesday.
Trump has pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election.
He had argued the case belonged in federal court because Trump reimbursed his then-attorney, Michael Cohen, who made the payment to Daniels, while Trump was in the White House.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg had argued that the hush payment had nothing to do with Trump’s presidential duties.
“We are very pleased with the federal court’s decision and look forward to proceeding in New York State Supreme Court,” said a spokesperson for Bragg following Wednesday’s ruling.
Trump had argued that arranging the hush payment was an official act, and that his “decision to separate his personal business from his public duties” was “rooted in constitutional concerns.”
The judge wholly rejected the theory.
“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,” Judge Hellerstein wrote.
Hellerstein also endorsed the Manhattan district attorney’s theory of the case that elevated the falsification of business records to felonies because, prosecutors said, Trump allegedly falsified the records in furtherance of another crime.
“Trump can be convicted of a felony even if he did not commit any crime beyond the falsification, so long as he intended to do so or to conceal such a crime,” Hellerstein said.
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