Trump moves to overturn Manhattan conviction, citing immunity decision

Former President Donald Trump walks to make remarks to reporters on May 29 at the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Donald Trump began an effort Monday to throw out his recent criminal conviction in New York City and postpone his upcoming sentencing, citing a new Supreme Court ruling that granted him broad immunity from prosecution for official actions he took as president, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

In a letter to the judge overseeing the case, Trump’s lawyers sought permission to file a motion to set aside the verdict, doing so just hours after the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling involving one of Trump’s other criminal cases. The letter will not be public until Tuesday at the earliest, after which prosecutors will have a chance to respond.


The move from Trump’s lawyers came 10 days before a judge was set to sentence the former president for his crimes in Manhattan, where a jury convicted him on 34 felony counts related to his cover-up of a sex scandal in the run-up to the 2016 election. Trump’s lawyers asked the judge, Juan Merchan, to postpone the July 11 sentencing while the judge weighs whether the Supreme Court ruling affects the conviction.

The effort to set aside the conviction might be a long shot. The Manhattan case centers on acts Trump took as a candidate, not a president.

Yet his lawyers are likely to argue that prosecutors built their case partly on evidence from his time in the White House. And under the Supreme Court’s new ruling, prosecutors not only may not charge a president for any official acts, but also cannot cite evidence involving official acts to bolster other accusations.

It is unclear how the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which brought the case, will respond, or whether the judge will delay the first sentencing of an American president. But Trump’s effort appeared to cause at least a brief interruption: The district attorney’s office did not make a sentencing recommendation to the judge about whether to imprison Trump, as was expected Monday.

A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office declined to comment.

It might be too late for Merchan to revisit the conviction. The deadline for filing post-trial motions was last month, and it is unclear whether the judge will seriously entertain the motion, even in light of the high court’s decision. Instead, he might direct Trump’s lawyers to raise the issue when they appeal the conviction after he is sentenced.

The sentencing is likely to be the only moment of criminal accountability that the four-times indicted former president will face before Election Day, when he hopes to reclaim the White House. Trump faces up to four years in prison, but could receive probation on the convictions for falsifying business records — among the lowest level of felonies.

Trump’s other criminal cases are mired in delay, and the Supreme Court ruling Monday will almost certainly postpone his trial in Washington, where he is accused of plotting to subvert the 2020 election.

In the Manhattan case, District Attorney Alvin Bragg will eventually submit his recommendation to Merchan, but it is unclear whether those legal papers will be public.

Unlike in federal court, sentencing papers in New York state courts are generally confidential unless the judge authorizes their release. That means the world may not learn of Bragg’s recommendation until Merchan sentences Trump, as he is expected to do days before Trump is to be formally nominated for president at the Republican National Convention.

The judge faces an unprecedented conundrum with equally unprecedented legal and political ramifications. His decision is sure to alienate broad swaths of the country no matter what it is.

Imprisoning Trump could exacerbate the nation’s political divisions. Yet if Merchan spares him, it could give the impression that the former president received special treatment. Trump’s front-runner status in the 2024 presidential campaign further compounds the judge’s dilemma, raising the prospect that his decision could shape the race and its outcome.

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