Appeals Court Rejects Trump’s Latest Bid to Delay NY Business Records Trial

Former President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives for a GOP fundraiser, Saturday, April 6, 2024, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York appeals court judge Tuesday rejected Donald Trump’s latest bid to delay his criminal trial regarding falsification of business records, taking just 12 minutes to dismiss an argument that it should be postponed while the former president fights a gag order.

Justice Cynthia Kern’s ruling was the second time in as many days that the state’s mid-level appeals court refused to postpone the trial, set to begin next week, further narrowing any plausible path to the delay that Trump’s legal team has repeatedly sought.

Trump’s lawyers wanted the trial delayed until a full panel of appellate court judges could hear arguments on lifting or modifying a gag order that bans him from making public statements about jurors, witnesses and others connected to the high-profile case, in which prosecutors allege Trump falsified business records to hide payments made to suppress harmful information about him.

“The First Amendment harms arising from this gag order right now are irreparable,” Trump lawyer Emil Bove said at an emergency hearing Tuesday in the state’s mid-level appeals court.

Bove argued that Trump shouldn’t be muzzled while critics, including key prosecution witnesses in the case, routinely assail him.

Bove also argued that the order unconstitutional restricts Trump’s critiques of the case — and, with them, his ability to speak to the voting public and its 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.”

“What we are talking about here is the defendant’s uncontested history of making inflammatory, denigrating” comments about people involved in the case, Wu said. “This is not political debate. These are insults.”

Wu said prosecutors already have had trouble getting some witnesses to testify “because they know what their names in the press may lead to.” Wu didn’t identify the witnesses but noted they included people who would testify about record-keeping practices.

The gag order still affords Trump “free rein to talk about a host of issues,” noting that he can comment on Judge Juan M. Merchan and District Attorney Alvin Bragg and “raise political arguments as he sees fit.” Trump has repeatedly lambasted Bragg, a Democrat, and the judge.

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.

Barring further court action, jury selection will begin on April 15.

Trump pleaded not guilty last year to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

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