Former President Trump in a sudden twist dropped his bid to move his hush money criminal case to federal court Tuesday.
At the time of publication, the reason the former president’s counsel moved for a voluntary dismissal of the appeal was unclear.
The decision to do so means Trump will proceed in state court as he defends himself against 34 charges of falsifying business records, which revolve around hush money deals made with former adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. The women were paid a combined $280,000 to cover up allegations of an affair.
Trump’s filing Tuesday came one day before his lawyers were due to submit their argument in writing to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as to why Trump’s case should be moved.
Trump’s lawyers previously indicated they wanted to move courts to raise various federal defenses to the indictment and argue it was an impermissible act of state hostility against a federal official.
A move to federal court would have broadened the jury pool to include prospective jurors outside of deep-blue Manhattan.
It also would have doomed chances of the trial being televised, a matter that remains an open question as the case moves ahead in state court.
The Hill has reached out to Trump’s legal team for comment.
Trump’s appeal followed a federal judge rejecting the former president’s effort to move courts, ruling the case was not sufficiently connected to Trump’s role as president.
Hush money by itself is legal, but prosecutors charged Trump over how he reimbursed his then-fixer, Michael Cohen, for making the payments to the women in 2017.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s (D) office — which opposed Trump’s effort to move to federal court — alleges Trump improperly deemed the reimbursements a legal retainer in an effort to hide damaging information from the public ahead of that year’s presidential election. Trump pleaded not guilty.
Bragg’s office declined to comment.
Trump’s New York criminal trial is scheduled to begin March 25 before New York Supreme Court Acting Justice Juan Merchan, though that could change if timelines cross with his federal case over efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election, which is set to begin March 4. A federal trial over his alleged mishandling of classified documents is currently scheduled to begin on May 20.
And in Georgia, where a trial date is not yet set, Trump faces charges over an alleged unlawful conspiracy to remain in power following the 2020 election. Trump opted against attempting to move his charges there to federal court, although several of his co-defendants are actively mounting such a bid.
In New York, Trump has frequently butted heads with Merchan, who is overseeing the trial. The former president has referred to him as a “Trump Hating Judge” and claims Merchan “HATES ME.”
Trump’s legal team has filed a multi-pronged strategy to get the hush money indictment dismissed before trial, and a hearing on the matter is scheduled for Feb. 15. Trump recently indicated in court filings he plans to attend in person.
The former president has spent much of this fall in courtrooms, attending several weeks of his civil fraud trial in Manhattan in person — down the street from where his hush money trial is set to unfold. His appearances in court have often been dramatic and an opportunity to take his campaign pitch to the courtrooms where he says he is being tried for politically motivated reasons.
Trump’s demeaning comments about Merchan are similar to the insults he’s hurled at Judge Arthur Engoron, who is overseeing the fraud case.
Unless its timeline changes, Trump’s hush money trial will fall squarely in the middle of the 2024 GOP presidential primary, in which he is the undisputed frontrunner.
Updated 4:28 p.m.