In a legal battle that promises to be as entertaining as reality TV, Manhattan prosecutors and Donald Trump's legal team are embroiled in a fierce dispute over where the former president's historic criminal case should be tried. Will it be the state court where it originated, or will it make a grand entrance into the federal court scene?
Trump's lawyers are itching to move the hush-money case to federal court, but the Manhattan district attorney's office is standing its ground, arguing that it should remain in the state court. With both sides flexing their legal muscles, it's up to Alvin Hellerstein, the federal judge in Manhattan, to make the final call. The decision will be made after a heated hearing on June 27, where both Manhattan prosecutors and Trump's legal team will passionately present their arguments to the court.
This battle is no ordinary one, as it marks the first time a former president is facing criminal charges.
In his court papers filed on Tuesday, Matthew Colangelo, a senior counsel representing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, urged Judge Hellerstein to maintain the current status of the case. Colangelo argued that Trump's lawyers had not met the stringent legal criteria required to transfer the case from state court to federal court.
Trump's legal team claims that the case should be tried in federal court due to the alleged violations of federal election law and Trump's status as a "federal officer." However, the Manhattan prosecutors are quick to point out that the charges primarily revolve around Trump's actions before his inauguration and relate to his private businesses. They argue that the case has no substantial connection to his official duties and responsibilities as president.
While the legal minds clash, it's worth noting that the choice of court could impact the trial's dynamics. If the case were to move to federal court, Trump could benefit from a broader and more politically diverse jury pool. However, for now, the trial remains scheduled in the state court, where Manhattan's predominantly blue population will make up the jury.
Trump's hush-money charges stem from payments made to his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to bury allegations of extramarital encounters during the 2016 campaign. Cohen, now a key witness in the state case against Trump, pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance law in connection with these payments. It's safe to say that Trump and Cohen's relationship is far from cordial, as Trump recently sued Cohen for causing "vast reputational harm" by speaking publicly about the hush-money payments at the heart of the criminal case.
As the legal drama unfolds, one thing is certain: Trump's attempt to move the case to federal court is facing an uphill battle. The Manhattan prosecutors are not buying into the arguments put forth by Trump's legal team and are determined to keep the trial within the state court's jurisdiction.
Trump, a member of the Republican Party, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and entered a plea of not guilty to 34 felony charges of falsifying business records in the state court last month. The trial is set to commence on March 25, 2024, which coincides with the intensity of the upcoming presidential primaries.
Will Trump succeed in his quest for a change of venue, or will the state court reign supreme? The answer lies in the hands of Judge Hellerstein. Until then, the legal showdown continues, and the world waits with bated breath to see how this high-stakes game of jurisdictional tug-of-war plays out.
Manhattan prosecutors fight to keep Donald Trump’s historic criminal case in state court (May 31, 2023) apnews.com
Manhattan DA pushes back on Trump attempt to move hush money case to federal court (May 30, 2023) thehill.com