Trump loses bid to move NY hush-money case to federal court

By Karen Freifeld and Luc Cohen

(Reuters) -A U.S. judge on Wednesday denied Donald Trump’s bid to move from New York state court to federal court the criminal case against the former U.S. president stemming from a hush money payment to a porn star.

Trump was indicted in April in state court in Manhattan on 34 counts of falsifying business records to hide reimbursements to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment to silence porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, had argued the case belonged in federal court, claiming that the indictment related to his 2016 presidency and involved federal election law.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan bought none of his arguments.

“The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the matter was purely a personal item of the President — a cover-up of an embarrassing event,” Hellerstein wrote in a 25-page decision.

“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 color of the President’s official duties.”

Hellerstein also found Trump does not have immunity and ruled there was no merit in his argument that state charges were pre-empted because the indictment alleges he intended to defraud the voting public during a federal election.

It was unclear whether Trump will appeal. His lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In another legal setback for Trump on Wednesday, a separate federal judge in New York rejected his request for a new trial after a jury in May found him liable for sexually abusing and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll and awarded her $5 million.

In the hush-money case, Justice Juan Merchan of New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan has set a trial for March 2024.

Trump has argued the case is politically motivated.

“But,” U.S. District Judge Hellerstein wrote in his ruling, “there is no reason to believe that the New York judicial system would not be fair and give Trump equal justice under the law.”

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had a sexual encounter with Trump. He denies it.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Chris Reese, Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)