Trump Criminal Case Belongs in New York State Court, Manhattan DA Says

(Bloomberg) -- Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg says his hush-money prosecution of Donald Trump belongs in state court because the alleged criminal conduct “had no connection to his official duties and responsibilities as president.”

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Trump, who faces 34 counts of falsifying business records, is attempting to move the case to Manhattan federal court, arguing the case raises issues which are unique to a former president. Bragg alleges Trump directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to make hush-money payments just before the 2016 presidential election to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actor, who claims she had an affair with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies the affair.

Trump’s lawyer Susan Necheles didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Bragg said Tuesday Trump should be prosecuted in state court because the alleged payments have nothing to do with his job as president. He also argued that Trump doesn’t have presidential immunity from prosecution because protections for presidents don’t extend to conduct that happened largely before he became president.

“The criminal charges against defendant do not arise from actions he took under color of the office of the president,” Bragg said. “Rather, they concern his unofficial actions to falsify the records of his personal business, while reimbursing his ‘personal lawyer’ for a pre-election expenditure, to conceal criminal conduct that largely occurred before his inauguration.”

Bragg’s 40-page memo arguing the case should be returned to state court is a detailed account of the evidence, including statements about the payments which Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former lawyer, made to the press. Cohen also submitted invoices for repayment of the hush money to Trump Organization executives each month from February 2017 through December 2017 “for services rendered,” according to Bragg.

The first two checks were paid by the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust while the remaining nine were paid by Donald Trump’s personal account and signed by him personally, Bragg said. The payments were approved by Trump, Cohen and former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, Bragg said.

“Not every action taken by a president constitutes an official act,” Bragg said. Trump is accused of falsifying records for payments to Cohen “to reimburse him for a pre-election expenditure — in order to conceal criminal conduct that was largely committed before his inauguration,” he said. “For several reasons, this alleged conduct concerns only defendant’s unofficial acts, even though the relevant business records were falsified while he was president.”

The case is: The People of the State of New York v. Trump, 23-cv-3773, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

(Updates with excerpts from Bragg filing beginning in fourth paragraph.)

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