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Trump seeks to set aside his New York hush money guilty verdict after Supreme Court immunity ruling

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers have asked the New York judge who presided over his hush money trial to set aside his conviction and delay his sentencing, scheduled for next week.

The letter to Judge Juan M. Merchan cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling earlier Monday on presidential immunity and asked the judge to delay Trump’s sentencing while he weighs the high court’s decision and how it could influence the New York case, according to the letter obtained by The Associated Press.

The lawyers argue that the Supreme Court’s decision confirmed a position the defense raised earlier in the case that prosecutors should have been precluded from introducing some evidence they said constituted official presidential acts, according to the letter.

In prior court filings, Trump contended he is immune from prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office. His lawyers did not raise that as a defense in the hush money case, but they argued that some evidence — including Trump’s social media posts about former lawyer Michael Cohen — comes from his time as president and should have been excluded from the trial because of immunity protections.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment Monday night.

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled for the first time that former presidents have broad immunity from prosecution, extending the delay in the Washington criminal case against the Republican ex-president on charges he plotted to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Trump was convicted in New York of 34 counts of falsifying business records, arising from what prosecutors said was an attempt to cover up a hush money payment to a porn actor just before the 2016 presidential election. He is scheduled to be sentenced in the hush money case on July 11.

Merchan instituted a policy in the run-up to the trial requiring both sides to send him a one-page letter summarizing their arguments before making longer court filings. He said he did that to better manage the docket, so he was not inundated with voluminous paperwork.

In denying Trump’s bid to move the trial from New York state court to federal court last year, a federal judge found that the allegations at the center of the case pertained to Trump’s personal life and do not “reflect in any way the color of the President’s official duties.”

“The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the matter was a purely a personal item of the President — a cover-up of an embarrassing event,” U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein wrote in the ruling.

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Sisak contributed from Fort Pierce, Florida.

Michael R. Sisak And Jake Offenhartz, The Associated Press