Trump hush money prosecutors agree to sentencing delay


Donald Trump’s July 11 sentencing on charges stemming from hush money paid to a porn star may be delayed after prosecutors said they do not object to giving the former US president a chance to argue he should have been immune from prosecution. 

Trump’s lawyers on Monday asked that they be permitted to argue his conviction in New York state court in Manhattan should be set aside due to the US Supreme Court’s ruling this week that presidents are entitled to immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts. 

Trump faces an uphill battle getting the conviction overturned, since much of the conduct at issue in the case predated his time in office. 

But prosecutors’ agreement to delay the sentencing makes it more likely Justice Juan Merchan will push back the date and consider the immunity argument.

Any delay of sentencing would lift the spectre of Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, facing possible confinement just days before the Republican National Convention begins in Milwaukee on July 15. 

Donald Trump
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg says he is open to a delay in Donald Trump’s sentencing. (EPA PHOTO)

In Monday’s landmark ruling, a 6-3 majority of the US Supreme Court justices wrote that Trump could not be prosecuted for any actions that were within his constitutional powers as president – but could be prosecuted for unofficial acts. 

That decision all but ensured Trump would not go to trial before the November 5 election on separate federal criminal charges involving his efforts to undo his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden. 

Trump has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

In their letter to Merchan, Trump’s lawyers argued that prosecutors had presented evidence stemming from Trump’s official acts while president during his trial on charges of covering up his former lawyer Michael Cohen’s $US130,000 ($A195,100) payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

“The trial result cannot stand,” lawyers Todd Blanche and Emil Bove wrote, asking to submit a full brief on the issue by July 10. 

In a response on Tuesday, prosecutors with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said Trump’s argument was “without merit” but they had no problem giving Trump the opportunity to make his case. 

They asked to have until July 24 to reply to the defence’s full motion. 

Trump pleaded not guilty and has vowed to appeal his May 30 conviction -the first-ever criminal trial of a US president, past or present – after sentencing.

Prosecutors argued Trump directed Cohen’s October 2016 payment to keep Daniels quiet about an alleged 2006 sexual encounter until after the November 2016 presidential election when he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton. 

Trump denies having had sex with Daniels.

Under the Supreme Court’s ruling, prosecutors cannot use evidence related to official actions to help prove criminal cases involving unofficial actions.

Trump’s lawyers said evidence presented at the hush money trial of conversations Trump had in the White House and social media posts he made while in office constituted official acts. 

Those posts included tweets from April 21, 2018, in which Trump called Cohen “a fine person with a wonderful family” and predicted he would not “flip”.

Jurors also saw a tweet from August 22, 2018 – after Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance law with the Daniels payment – in which Trump wrote, “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!”.

“This official-acts evidence should never have been put before the jury,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. 

Last year, Trump made a similar argument as part of an unsuccessful push to move the hush money case to federal court. 

In denying Trump’s request in July 2023, US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein wrote that the payment to Daniels “was a purely personal item”.

“Hush money paid to an adult film star is not related to a president’s official acts,” Hellerstein wrote.

Trump’s lawyers appealed Hellerstein’s decision but later abandoned the effort.