Trump asks to delay hush money trial until U.S. Supreme Court reviews immunity claim

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Donald Trump on Monday asked the New York judge overseeing his criminal case on charges stemming from hush money paid to a porn star to delay the trial until the U.S. Supreme Court finishes reviewing his claim of presidential immunity in a separate case.

The hush money trial is set to begin on March 25 in a New York state court in Manhattan.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsification of business records.

Prosecutors say he directed his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, to pay porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet before the 2016 election about a sexual encounter she says they had a decade earlier, and then falsely recorded his reimbursement to Cohen as legal expenses.

Trump denies the encounter with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Last month, prosecutors said they planned to introduce evidence of a “pressure campaign” by Trump in 2018 to ensure Cohen did not cooperate with a federal investigation into the payment to Daniels. Cohen pleaded guilty that year to violating campaign finance law.

In their court filing on Monday, Trump’s lawyers called prosecutors’ claim of a pressure campaign “fictitious.” They said prosecutors should not be allowed to present evidence about Trump’s public statements about Cohen from that year because he made those statements in his official capacity as president.

“Without immunity from criminal prosecution based on official acts, the President’s political opponents will seek to influence and control his or her decisions via de facto extortion,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.

A spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which brought the charges, declined to comment.

The case is one of four federal and state criminal indictments the Republican presidential nominee faces. Firm trial dates have not yet been set in the other three cases, which stem from his efforts to reverse his 2020 loss to Democratic President Joe Biden, and his handling of government documents.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 28 agreed to decide Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution in his federal case in Washington, D.C., over efforts to overturn the 2020 election, delaying a potential trial. The Supreme Court set the case for oral arguments during the week of April 22.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all criminal cases, which he has termed “election interference.”

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York, editing by Deepa Babington)

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