Trump seeks to overturn New York criminal conviction following SCOTUS immunity ruling

 July 2, 2024

The multiple criminal cases against former President Donald Trump and the prosecutors behind them were thrown into a tailspin on Monday when the Supreme Court ruled favorably for Trump on his claim of presidential immunity from criminal prosecution.

Just hours after that ruling was issued, Trump's attorneys asked the judge overseeing his New York case for clearance to file a motion to overturn his conviction in light of the high court's ruling, The New York Times reported.

The letter has not yet been made public, nor is it clear how Judge Juan Merchan will decide on it, and his decision likely won't come until after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has a chance to respond to Trump's request.

Supreme Court rules on Trump's immunity from prosecution

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that all presidents enjoy absolute immunity from prosecution for their core constitutional powers and presumptive immunity for their "official" acts while president, but have no immunity for "unofficial" or private acts unrelated to their presidential duties.

While the specifics of the letter from Trump's attorneys to Judge Merchan remain unknown, it is expected that they will argue that evidence used by DA Bragg against Trump during the trial date to his tenure in office and involved or were related to his official duties.

Per the high court's ruling, prosecutors are not only generally prohibited from criminally charging a president for his official acts but are also barred from using official acts as evidence in support of charges based on other unofficial acts.

Federal judge previously ruled that Trump's hush money case did not involve "official acts"

At issue here, according to Reuters, are social media posts then-President Trump made in 2018 about his ex-personal attorney Michael Cohen about the allegations that Cohen paid porn star Stormy Daniels hush money in 2016 to silence her ahead of the election about an alleged affair 10 years earlier.

Trump's lawyers previously argued that those posts during his presidency constituted "official communications," an argument Merchan rejected at the time, and will likely raise that argument again as a way to retroactively exclude the evidence used by DA Bragg and, presumably, have overturned his conviction for falsifying business records that were based in part on that evidence.

However, the former president's attorneys had also made a similar argument in 2023 when they unsuccessfully sought to have Bragg's indictment moved from state court to federal court, as U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled at the time that the alleged hush money payments, and presumably all actions related to them, were "not related to a President's official acts."

How will Bragg respond?

The New York Times reported that the letter from Trump's attorneys seeking to overturn his May conviction came just 10 days before Judge Merchan is scheduled to decide what Trump's sentence should be after he was found guilty by a New York jury on 34 felony counts of falsification of business records.

DA Bragg had argued that the records were falsified in 2017, while Trump was president, to cover up the 2016 hush money payment made to Daniels by Cohen ahead of that year's presidential election.

It is unclear how Bragg will respond to Trump's request, but The Times noted that the letter had the immediate effect of delaying an expected sentencing recommendation from Bragg's office that was scheduled to be filed with Merchan on Monday.

What will Merchan do?

As for the judge, it is also unknown how he will react to the request, and given that the deadline to file post-trial motions has already passed, he could simply ignore the letter or instruct Trump's attorneys to raise the issue as part of their anticipated appeal of the jury's verdict.

Certainly complicating matters for Merchan is also the fact that the Supreme Court's immunity ruling and Trump's subsequent request to overturn the conviction came just two weeks before Trump is scheduled to accept the Republican nomination, which will weigh heavily on the judge's eventual sentencing decision that will undoubtedly anger roughly half the country regardless of which way he chooses to go.

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