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Appeals court turns down Donald Trump's latest effort to postpone April 15 hush money criminal trial

NEW YORK — A New York appeals court judge Tuesday rejected Donald Trump’s latest attempt to delay his hush money criminal trial, taking just 12 minutes to swat aside an argument that it should be postponed while the former president

A judge in a New York appeals court on Tuesday rejected Donald Trump's recent attempt to delay his hush money criminal trial, taking just 12 minutes to dismiss an argument for postponement while the former president challenges a gag order.

Justice Cynthia Kern's decision was the second time in two days that the state's mid-level appeals court declined to postpone the trial, which is set to start next week, making it harder for Trump's legal team to delay the proceedings.

Trump's attorneys wanted the trial postponed until a full panel of appellate court judges could review arguments about lifting or changing a gag order that prevents him from making public statements about jurors, witnesses, and others involved in the hush-money case.

They claim that the gag order infringes on the presumptive Republican nominee's freedom of speech while he's campaigning for president and defending himself against criminal charges, deeming it unconstitutional.

Emil Bove, Trump's lawyer, stated at an emergency hearing on Tuesday that the current gag order's First Amendment implications are irreparable.

Bove argued that Trump should not be silenced while his critics, such as his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen and adult film star Stormy Daniels, frequently attack him, as both are key prosecution witnesses.

He also argued that the order unconstitutionally limits Trump's ability to criticize the case and consequently hampers his ability to communicate with the voting public, who have the right to hear from him.

Steven Wu, the appellate chief for the Manhattan district attorney's office, countered that there is a "public interest in protecting the integrity of the trial."

Wu also mentioned that prosecutors have encountered difficulties persuading some witnesses to testify because they are concerned about the potential repercussions of their names appearing in the press.

The gag order still allows Trump to freely discuss a range of issues, including making comments about Judge Juan M. Merchan and District Attorney Alvin Bragg, as well as presenting political arguments as he sees fit. Trump has frequently criticized Bragg, a Democrat, and the judge.

Unless there is further action by the court, jury selection will commence on April 15.

Merchan imposed the gag order last month at the request of prosecutors, then expanded it last week to prohibit comments about his family after Trump criticized the judge's daughter, who is a Democratic political consultant, and made false claims about her on social media.

Tuesday was the second consecutive day that Trump's lawyers appeared in the appeals court. Associate Justice Lizbeth Gonzalez denied their request to delay the trial while Trump seeks to relocate his case out of heavily Democratic Manhattan.

Trump's attorneys presented their appeal for the gag order as a lawsuit against Merchan. In New York, judges can be sued to challenge some decisions under a state law called Article 78.

Trump has used the same strategy before, including against the judge in his recent New York civil fraud trial in an unsuccessful last-minute attempt to delay that case last fall and again when that judge imposed a gag order prohibiting trial participants from speaking publicly on court staffers. That order came after Trump criticized the judge’s principal law clerk in a social media post.

A single appeals judge removed the civil trial gag order, but a higher court panel reinstated it two weeks later.

Trump’s hush-money criminal case involves accusations that he manipulated his company’s records to conceal the nature of payments to Cohen, who assisted him in burying unfavorable stories during his 2016 campaign. Cohen’s activities included paying Daniels $130,000 to prevent her from publicizing her claims of an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump years earlier.

Trump pled not guilty last year to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He has denied engaging in a sexual encounter with Daniels. His lawyers argue that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses.

Trump has made numerous efforts to request the trial to be postponed.

Last week, as Merchan rejected various requests to delay the trial, Trump renewed his request for the judge to step aside from the case. The judge turned down a similar request last August.

Trump’s lawyers claim that the judge is biased against him and has a conflict of interest because of his daughter Loren’s work as president of Authentic Campaigns, a firm with clients that have included President Joe Biden and other Democrats. Trump’s attorneys complained that the expanded gag order was protecting the Merchans “from legitimate public criticism.”

Merchan had long resisted imposing a gag order. At Trump’s arraignment in April 2023, he warned Trump not to make statements that could incite violence or jeopardize safety, but refrained from silencing him. At a subsequent hearing, Merchan acknowledged Trump’s “special” status as a former president and current candidate and said he was “bending over backwards” to ensure Trump has every opportunity “to speak in furtherance of his candidacy.”

Merchan became increasingly cautious of Trump’s rhetoric disrupting the historic trial as it grew near. In issuing the gag order, he stated that his duty to ensuring the integrity of the proceedings was more important than First Amendment concerns.

Trump reacted on social media that the gag order was “illegal, un-American, unConstitutional” and said Merchan was “wrongfully attempting to deprive me of my First Amendment Right to speak out against the Weaponization of Law Enforcement” by Democratic rivals.

Trump suggested without evidence that Merchan’s decision-making was influenced by his daughter’s professional interests and made a claim, later refuted by court officials, that Loren Merchan had posted a social media photo showing Trump behind bars.

After the outburst, Merchan expanded the gag order April 1 to prohibit Trump from making statements about the judge’s family or Bragg’s family.

'They are allowed to discuss me but I'm not allowed to discuss them???' Trump responded on his Truth Social platform.

NEW YORK — A New York appeals court judge on Tuesday quickly dismissed Donald Trump's latest effort to delay his hush money criminal trial, taking only 12 minutes to reject an argument that it should be postponed while the former president opposes a gag order.

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