Former US President and 2024 Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump gestures about weightlifting as he speaks at a Republican volunteer recruitment event at Fervent, a Calvary Chapel, in Las Vegas, July 8, 2023.
Mario Tama | Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday lost a bid to transfer to federal court his New York state court case related to a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein’s decision denying that effort keeps Trump on track to go to trial March 25, 2024, in Manhattan Supreme Court in the case. Trump was indicted in March on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.
Hellerstein brushed aside Trump’s arguments that the case belonged in federal court because he was charged for conduct that was committed when he was U.S. president, and that the charged conduct related to acts performed “under color of office.”
“Trump has failed to show that the conduct charged by the Indictment is for or related to any act performed by or for the President under color of the official acts of a President,” Hellerstein wrote in an order.
“The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the matter was purely a personal item of the President, a cover-up of an embarrassing event,” the judge wrote.
The records at the center of the case mischaracterized the reason for payments Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, made to his then-personal attorney Michael Cohen during Trump’s tenure in the White House.
Trump had characterized the money as being for legal services when in fact it was to reimburse Cohen for a $130,000 payment he made to Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election.
Cohen paid Daniels to keep her quiet about her claim of having had sex with Trump a decade earlier, months after Melania Trump had given birth to their son Barron Trump. The former president denies having sex with Daniels.
A spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is prosecuting Trump, said, “We are very pleased with the federal court’s decision and look forward to proceeding in New York State Supreme Court.”
Joseph Tacopina, a lawyer for Trump, had no immediate comment on the ruling.
But a spokesman for Trump’s campaign, in a statement, said, “Corrupt Democrat Alvin Bragg is abusing his power to help his boss Crooked Joe Biden and his lazy, losing presidential campaign.”
“The Democrats have weaponized our great judicial system and are using it to damage their political opposition — a disgraceful abuse of the public trust,” the spokesman said. “They’re throwing everything they can at President Trump to prevent his re-election, because deep down, they know he’s going to win. This case belongs in a federal court and we will continue to pursue all legal avenues to move it there.”
Trump has pleaded not guilty in the case.
He also has pleaded not guilty in a Florida federal criminal case in which he was charged with dozens of counts related to retaining classified records after leaving office.
Trump, who is seeking the 2024 Republican nomination, is the first president, former or otherwise, to be charged in a criminal case.