"Entirely wrong": Experts skeptical of Trump bid to dodge felony convictions after "immunity" ruling

Trump's legal team asked to delay his Manhattan sentencing after Monday's Supreme Court ruling

Published July 2, 2024 12:49PM (EDT)

Former US President Donald Trump looks on during his criminal trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court, in New York City, on May 13, 2024. (SPENCER PLATT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Former US President Donald Trump looks on during his criminal trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court, in New York City, on May 13, 2024. (SPENCER PLATT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

An effort by Donald Trump and his legal team to throw out his recent hush money trial following Monday’s SCOTUS decision is being heavily criticized by legal experts, who are predicting the attempt will fail.

On Monday, Trump’s legal team asked the judge presiding over the case in which Trump was convicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records to throw out his conviction and delay his sentencing, which is scheduled for July 11 in Manhattan. The letter to Judge Juan Merchan cites the Supreme Court granting the former president immunity for “official acts," The New York Times reported.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Tuesday wrote that he was okay with pushing back the sentencing date to address the issue, even as he dismissed it as being without merit.

In an interview with MSNBC, former Department of Justice attorney Chuck Rosenberg said the former president's attempt to claim immunity was predictable but “entirely wrong.”

"I mean, if you look at the Supreme Court's decision from yesterday ... the conduct that underlined in the New York case seems to me to be purely private," he said. "So perhaps Judge Merchan grants them a hearing, but I have a hard time imagining that they would prevail on it."

"This seems to me the type of case that a president ought not be immunized from," Rosenberg concluded.

Other experts agree.

CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen said  in a post on X that the attempt “won’t work.” He pointed out that Trump previously raised claims of immunity in the hush money case when he tried to move the case to federal court, which was denied. Trump argued that the payments in the case were connected to his duties as president; U.S. District Judge Alan Hellerstein rejected the claim. 

"Trump has failed to show that the conduct charged by the Indictment is for or relating to any act performed by or for the President under color of the official acts of a President. Trump also has failed to show that he has a colorable federal defense to the Indictment,” Hellerstein wrote in his July 2023 ruling.

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Trump again tried to claim immunity just three weeks before his trial, a request that Judge Merchant denied and called “untimely.”  

In a last-ditch effort, Trump alos tried to delay the trial based on immunity claims in the First Department of the Appellate Division in Manhattan. Again his request was denied, and Trump abandoned his appeal, Eisen pointed out.

“He’s collaterally estopped,” Eisen concluded, adding that Trump’s actions in this case were “purely personal and political” and had nothing to do with his duties as president, making it unlikely Trump will be granted immunity. 

“In NY the evidence is clear—Trump is absolutely not immune for these personal acts of election interference and false biz records,” Eisen wrote. 

Lawyer and legal commentator Tristan Snell shared a similar conclusion, writing that Trump “will fail” to overturn the conviction in a post on X.  He noted that most of the events Trump is being tried for (with the exception of repayments made to Michael Cohen in 2017) occurred before Trump was even president.

“So repaying your personal lawyer for pornstar hush money is an ‘official act’?” Snell wrote. 

Others poked fun at Trump’s broad interpretation of the SCOTUS ruling, stating it highly unlikely that what he was tried for could be considered an “official act” as president.

“BREAKING: If you were wondering how broadly Donald Trump interprets the immunity just granted to him by a Supreme Court he disproportionately appointed, wonder no more: he now claims the ruling makes *paying off his mistress* an Official Presidential Act,” wrote Seth Abramson, attorney and New York Times-bestselling author, in a post on X.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., added: “Trump claims that his prosecution by the Manhattan DA should be delayed because he has immunity for presidential acts. In what world is making hush money payments to a porn star part of the job as president? Trump’s world.”

By Marin Scotten

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