Donald Trump's hush money sentencing postponed

By John Mercury July 3, 2024

A judge in New York has postponed Donald Trump’s hush money sentencing until September to consider the Supreme Court’s ruling on immunity.

The US’s top court decided on Monday that immunity for presidents from criminal prosecution exists for official acts while in office, in a boost for Trump – who is accused of illegally trying to overturn his 2020 election loss.

The former president asked Justice Juan Merchan to delay the sentencing for his conviction over hush money paid to a porn star to give him a chance to argue he should have been immune from prosecution.

Prosecutors said Trump’s argument was “without merit”, but agreed to the delay to give Trump time to make his case. In a post on his own social media network, Truth Social, Trump described the decision as “total exoneration”.

However, he will likely face an uphill battle in getting the hush money conviction overturned, since much of the conduct in the case predates his time in office.

The sentencing, originally set for 11 July, has now been scheduled for 18 September.

The delay will push the sentencing beyond the Republic National Convention on 15 July, when Trump is due to officially be named the party nominee for the presidential election on 5 November.

Trump lawyers see ruling as a game-changer – this is the first test

It’s the end of the law as they know it.

The specifics of change will be tested first, and fastest, in the New York court where Trump was convicted.

His lawyers clearly see the Supreme Court ruling as a game-changer and an opportunity to have the conviction thrown out.

New York’s prosecutors beg to differ, insisting the Trump argument is “without merit”.

Their agreement to a delay in sentencing is a nod to inevitable Trump appeals and the importance of setting out a judge’s reasoning to help resist challenge.

Trump’s lawyers believe evidence presented to the jury during his trial falls under new immunity protections, including public statements, tweets and paperwork.

The hush money trial spanned periods when Trump was president and there will be questions around what falls within the parameter of “official acts”.

It is an early test of the new immunity law and a measure of a president’s empowerment.

For critics of the Supreme Court ruling, it’s a calibration of risk to democracy and the rule of law.

The delay in Trump’s sentencing will push it beyond the Republic National Convention on 15 July, when he’s due to be anointed as the party nominee.

Trump’s sentencing had loomed large over the political set-piece – no more.

Trump was found guilty on 30 May of falsifying business records to cover up his former lawyer Michael Cohen’s $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

The offer was made to keep her quiet about an alleged 2006 sexual encounter until after the 2016 election, when Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

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Trump denies ever having sex with Ms Daniels and has said he will appeal against the conviction after his sentencing.

Prosecutors said the payment was part of an illicit scheme to influence the election.

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In their letter to Justice Merchan, Trump’s team argued prosecutors had used evidence involving his official acts as president, including conversations while in the White House.

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

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