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Can Trump’s hush money conviction be overturned after Supreme Court immunity ruling?

Can Trump’s hush money conviction be overturned after Supreme Court immunity ruling?
Can Trump’s hush money conviction be overturned after Supreme Court immunity ruling?

Just hours after the Supreme Court granted Donald Trump absolute immunity for “official acts” committed during his term in office, the former president’s lawyers sought to overturn the conviction in his hush money criminal trial.

The 78-year-old former president was found guilty on May 30 on all 34 counts of falsifying business records and paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels to refute allegations of an affair before the 2016 presidential election.

For the charges, Trump now faces several years in prison, probation, community service, large fines, or a combination of these penalties.

Following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling, Trump’s team is arguing for the verdict to be overturned.

On Monday, Trump’s lawyers immediately sent a letter to the judge presiding over the case, Juan Merchan, asking him to overturn the guilty verdict.

The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg responded Tuesday, saying Trump’s arguments for such a decision were “meritless.” But it said prosecutors did not oppose the former president’s request to delay the July 11 sentencing date by two weeks. Instead, they requested July 24 as the final deadline to file all legal arguments in the case.

But is this simply a baseless, desperate attempt by Trump to overturn the conviction of the Republican presidential candidate at the last moment, or does the defense possibly have a chance?

Trump sat with lead attorney Todd Blanche at his hush money criminal trial, who found him guilty on all charges against him
Trump sat with lead attorney Todd Blanche at his hush money criminal trial, who found him guilty on all charges against him (via REUTERS)

Duncan Levin, a criminal defense attorney and former senior official in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, said The Independent that the Supreme Court’s decision “is unlikely to change anything at all.”

“There is really no credible argument that covering up the payment of hush money to a porn star is one of the core constitutional duties of the President of the United States,” Levin said.

“They are doing everything they can to delay things and delay the verdict… if you don’t ask for it, you don’t get it,” he added.

In their landmark ruling on Monday (6-3), the majority of justices declared that Trump and all future presidents enjoy immunity for their official acts during their term in office.

Presidents, however, are not immune from unofficial acts – that is, acts that take place in private. But the “outer sphere” of the president’s duties must be granted some immunity, the majority wrote.

The Supreme Court has left it to lower courts to determine what constitutes an official act. This means that Trump’s federal election interference case must now be sent back to a lower court for further legal arguments, which will cause further delays.

Before the Supreme Court’s decision, Trump had claimed immunity from prosecution or civil threats in any proceedings against him, which was rejected by two judges.

In Trump’s letter to the judge, first reported by The New York TimesHis lawyers requested permission to file a motion to stay the verdict and dismiss the case.

They argued that the Supreme Court’s decision reinforced their position that Bragg should not have been allowed to present evidence about Trump’s actions during his presidency.

The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is expected to respond to the letter from Trump's legal team on Tuesday.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is expected to respond to the letter from Trump’s legal team on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

One of Trump’s lawyers in the immunity case, Will Scharf, also claimed that the Supreme Court’s decision now “absolutely” impacts the hush money trial.

“The Supreme Court has made it very clear that when acts fall within the outer scope of the President’s official responsibilities and for which there is presumptive immunity from prosecution, evidence of those acts cannot be used to prosecute essentially private acts,” he told CNN.

But neither the indictment nor the prosecution’s arguments contain any reference to actions involving the presidency – with the exception of Trump’s signature on checks to his former agent and then-lawyer Michael Cohen, reimbursing him for payments to Daniels.

These checks were signed when Trump was president in 2017, his first year in office.

“As shocking as it is, it is not a fundamental constitutional duty to sign checks from the Oval Office and promote a criminal cause,” Levin said.

In addition, the deadline for filing lawsuits following the conviction has expired last month, and it is unclear what arguments Trump’s lawyers would present to the court based on the Supreme Court’s relatively narrow decision on Monday.

On Monday evening, Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche said: The Independent that he had “no comment” and added that “there is nothing public yet that could be communicated”.

However, the former president was quick to stress that the Supreme Court’s ruling de facto exonerated him.

In a post on Truth Social, he said the Supreme Court’s decision “should put an end to the entire witch hunt against me by the fraudulent Joe Biden,” including “the New York hoaxes.”

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