Judge Delays Trump’s Hush Money Sentencing Until at Least September After High Court Immunity Ruling

In a major reprieve for former President Donald Trump, sentencing for his hush money convictions was postponed on July 2, 2024, until at least September — if ever — as the judge agreed to weigh the possible impact of a new Supreme Court ruling on presidential immunity that was decided in Trump v. United States.

Trump had been scheduled to face sentencing on July 11, just before the Republicans’ nominating convention, on his New York convictions on felony charges of falsifying business records. He denies any wrongdoing.

The postponement sets the sentencing for September 18 at the earliest — if it happens at all, since Trump’s lawyers are arguing that the Supreme Court ruling merits not only delaying the sentencing but also tossing out his conviction.

Supreme Court Ruling on Presidential Immunity

The recent Supreme Court ruling granted broad immunity protections to presidents, while also restricting prosecutors from citing any official acts as evidence in trying to prove a president’s unofficial actions violated the law. The high court held that former presidents are absolutely immune from prosecution for actions that fall within their core constitutional duties, such as interacting with the Justice Department, and at least presumptively immune for all other official acts. The justices left intact the longstanding principle that no immunity exists for purely personal acts.

Impact on Trump’s Hush Money Case

The implications of this ruling on Trump’s New York hush money case are not entirely clear. The case involves allegations that a pre-presidency Trump participated in a scheme to stifle stories that he feared would be damaging to his 2016 campaign. The actual charges, however, were related to payments made in 2017 to his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, who had shelled out hush money on Trump’s behalf. Trump was president when he signed the relevant checks to Cohen.

Trump’s lawyers argued that Manhattan prosecutors had placed “highly prejudicial emphasis on official-acts evidence,” including Trump’s social media posts and witness testimony about Oval Office meetings.

Judicial and Political Implications

New York Judge Juan M. Merchan, who presided over the case, had previously dismissed arguments that Trump’s actions as president could not be used against him, stating that it would be “hard to convince me that something that he tweeted out to millions of people voluntarily cannot be used in court when it’s not being presented as a crime. It’s just being used as an act, something he did.”

Despite this, Trump’s attorney requested that Merchan set aside the jury’s guilty verdict and delay the sentencing to consider how the high court’s ruling could affect the hush money case. Merchan wrote that he’ll rule on September 6, and the next date in the case would be September 18, “if such is still necessary.”

Broader Context and Reactions

This delay adds to a series of political and legal wins for Trump in recent days, including the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling and a debate widely seen as a disaster for Democratic President Joe Biden. The immunity decision significantly impacts the possibility of Trump facing trial in his 2020 election interference case in Washington before the November vote.

There was no immediate comment on the sentencing postponement from Manhattan prosecutors, who brought the hush money case. Trump, however, took to his Truth Social media site, claiming the Supreme Court’s decision netted him “total exoneration” in this and other criminal cases he faces.

Conclusion

The decision to delay Trump’s sentencing until at least September underscores the complex interplay between legal proceedings and presidential immunity. As Trump continues to navigate multiple legal challenges, the high court’s ruling adds a significant layer of protection, potentially influencing the outcomes of his various cases. This development will undoubtedly keep Trump’s legal battles in the public eye as the nation approaches the next presidential election.

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