Former United States President Donald Trump has been handed dual court defeats on Wednesday, as he continues to face an array of legal woes since leaving the White House.
The first ruling, made by a federal judge, rejected Trump’s bid to have his criminal trial in New York state court moved to a federal court.
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Trump’s legal team has long argued that the former president will not receive a fair trial in ultra-liberal Manhattan, where he faces 34 felony charges connected to falsifying documents in a hush-money case involving an adult film star.
But his lawyers’ latest bid alleged that, since the case was related to Trump’s time as president, it should be heard in federal court.
However, US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein rejected that argument, saying the hush money allegations pertained to Trump’s personal life, not his presidential duties. They therefore did not merit a move to federal court.
“The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the matter was a purely a personal item of the President – a cover-up of an embarrassing event,” Hellerstein wrote in a 25-page ruling.
“Hush money paid to an adult film star is not related to a president’s official acts. It does not reflect in any way the colour of the president’s official duties.”
Hellerstein’s decision means Trump could stand trial in a state court in Manhattan as early as next spring. That would overlap with the 2024 presidential primary season. Public opinion polls show the former president is currently leading a crowded Republican field.
No new trial in Carroll case
Meanwhile, a federal judge in an unrelated case on Wednesday also rejected Trump’s request for a new trial, following the conclusion of a civil lawsuit brought by the writer E Jean Carroll in May.
A jury in that case found Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming Carroll and awarded her $5m.
She had accused the former president of raping her in a Manhattan department store dressing room in the mid-1990s and later defaming later her in an October 2022 social media post when he branded the incident a “hoax and a lie”.
In Wednesday’s ruling, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan said May’s unanimous verdict was “almost entirely in favour of Ms Carroll”, and there was no indication it was a “seriously erroneous result” nor a “miscarriage of justice”.
Kaplan further rejected Trump’s request to have the penalty sum in the civil case lowered to $1m.
Carroll is pursuing a second defamation suit against the former president, seeking $10m for comments made in June 2019. She recently amended that suit to include more recent statements, including comments Trump made at a CNN town hall in May, calling her a “whack job”. That trial is scheduled for January 15, 2024.
Ongoing legal woes
Trump has faced a barrage of legal troubles since leaving office.
The state charges in New York made Trump the first president, current or former, to face criminal charges – but in June, he made history again, when he was indicted separately on 37 federal felony counts related to allegedly hiding and hoarding classified documents he took from the White House.
Trump is the first US president in history to face either state or federal criminal charges.
On Tuesday, the former president said he had received a letter identifying him as the target of a separate Department of Justice investigation into efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election. The scope of that investigation includes his actions before and during the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Trump is also the subject of a criminal probe in Georgia looking into alleged efforts to pressure an election official into altering the results of the state’s 2020 vote. The state’s Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked Trump’s petition to block the case.
The New York attorney general has also sued Trump and his family business for fraud, with a trial in the civil case set for the end of the year.