Federal judge rejects Trump’s attempt to transfer New York criminal case to federal court
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein has denied former President Donald Trump’s request to move his New York State criminal case concerning “hush money” payments to federal jurisdiction. The case involves 34 felony counts of falsification of business records at the heart of payments made to Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen.
Judge Hellerstein stated that he did not find any evidence linking these payments to Trump’s official duties as President. The argument put forth by Trump’s lawyers that the case should be heard in federal court because the payments were made during his presidency was rejected by the judge.
On April 4, Trump pleaded not guilty to the charges related to transactions between him and Cohen. Prosecutors in Manhattan assert that the payments were disguised reimbursements for hush money given to adult film star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election.
Trump’s legal team claimed that he should be immune from state prosecution for actions carried out while performing his federal duties. However, Judge Hellerstein refuted this claim, emphasizing that reimbursing Cohen for hush money cannot be seen as fulfilling constitutional duties.
A spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg expressed satisfaction with the federal court’s decision and looked forward to proceeding with the case in the New York State Supreme Court.
In response to the ruling, a spokesperson for Trump’s presidential campaign criticized the decision, alleging political motives behind the indictment and accusing Bragg of targeting the Republican former President out of political animosity.
The court’s decision came amid ongoing efforts by Trump’s attorneys to have a new state court judge assigned to the case. They requested recusal of New York Judge Juan Merchan, who presided over a prior trial involving two Trump Organization companies found guilty of criminal tax evasion.
In a separate development, Trump revealed that he had received a letter from the Justice Department identifying him as a target in another criminal investigation, potentially leading to a third indictment. The investigation, overseen by special counsel Jack Smith, centers on allegations of Trump and his allies attempting to undermine the 2020 presidential election after his defeat.
Trump has consistently denied any wrongdoing and criticized the investigations by Smith and others, characterizing them as politically motivated attempts to misuse law enforcement for partisan purposes.
The former President also faces potential charges from Fulton County, Georgia district attorney Fani Willis related to alleged efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results.