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Judge Hasn’t Ruled on Trump’s Graduation Request

Para leer en español, vea esta traducción de El Tiempo Latino.

On the first day of his criminal fraud trial in New York, former President Donald Trump requested that the judge not hold court proceedings on May 17 — the day of his youngest son’s high school graduation. The judge did not rule on the request, saying he preferred to wait to see how the trial unfolds.

But the Trump family and conservative commentators — relying on the former president’s confusing and contradictory remarks about his request — wrongly attacked New York Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan for banning or prohibiting the defendant from attending Barron Trump’s graduation from Oxbridge Academy in Palm Beach, Florida.

Former President Donald Trump and one of his attorneys, Todd Blanche, outside the courtroom following the first day of jury selection at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 15. Photo by Jabin Botsford-Pool/Getty Images.

Eric Trump, another of the former president’s sons, wrote on X: “Judge Merchan is truly heartless in not letting a father attend his son’s graduation.” Donald Trump Jr. called it “pure evil.”

Conservative commentator Graham Allen wrote on X, “Trump should defy the judge and go to his son’s graduation ANYWAY!!” He also put on Instagram another X post that said, “Judge Merchan told President Trump that he could not attend his son Barron’s high school graduation or would be SENT TO JAIL.”

But that’s not what the judge told Trump.

According to the Associated Press, which attended the first day of the trial, the judge deferred a decision.

Associated Press, April 15: Trump’s lawyers have requested that the trial not be held on May 17 so that the former president may attend his son Barron’s high school graduation. A Trump lawyer has also requested the trial not be held June 3 so that he could attend his own son’s graduation.

Merchan said he was not prepared to rule on either request, but that if the trial proceeds as planned he’s willing to adjourn for one or both days. “It really depends on how we’re doing on time and where we are in the trial,” Merchan said.

The former president’s own remarks on the issue were confusing.

Trump is on trial for allegedly falsifying business records to keep allegations of extramarital affairs a secret during the 2016 presidential campaign. (For more, see our article “Q&A on Grand Jury Indictment of Trump in New York.”) After the first day of the trial ended, Trump briefly spoke before the news cameras outside the courtroom.

Trump started his remarks by expressing his opinion that the judge was unlikely to let him attend the graduation, and he may have reason to suspect that could be the case. After all, Merchan rejected Trump’s request for a court recess on April 25 so he can attend oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on a matter related to one of his federal criminal cases. (The high court that day will take up Trump’s claim of presidential immunity from federal prosecution on charges that he attempted to illegally overturn the 2020 presidential election results.)

Here’s what Trump initially said in his remarks about his request to attend the May 17 graduation:

Trump, April 15: We had some amazing things happen today. As you know, my son has graduated from high school, and it looks like the judge will not let me go to the graduation of my son who’s worked very, very hard. He’s a great student, and he’s very proud of the fact that he did so well. And was looking forward for years to have graduation with his mother and father there, and it looks like the judge isn’t going to allow me to escape this scam.

In closing, however, Trump wrongly said, “I can’t go to my son’s graduation.”

“So I just want to thank you very much, but that I can’t go to my son’s graduation or that I can’t go to the United States Supreme Court. That I’m not in Georgia or Florida or North Carolina campaigning like I should be. It’s perfect for the radical left Democrats. That’s exactly what they want,” Trump said before leaving the courthouse.

Trump further muddied the waters when he later made conflicting statements on Truth Social.

Trump wrote that he will “likely not be allowed to attend” Barron’s graduation ceremony, which again is his opinion perhaps based on the judge’s ruling about the Supreme Court hearing. But then he incorrectly wrote in another post that he is “being prohibited from attending my son Barron’s High School Graduation.”

Just to be clear, the judge hasn’t decided if he will preside over the trial on May 17. We asked the court for more clarity, and we will update this if we get a response.

Updated, April 22: Even though the judge hasn’t issued a decision on Trump’s request, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee are fundraising off the issue. An email that says, “THE HEARTLESS THUGS ARE FORCING ME TO SKIP MY SON’S GRADUATION!” asks supporters to donate to the Trump National Committee JFC Inc., a joint fundraising committee for the Trump campaign and the RNC. A link in the email directs supporters to a donation page that repeats the “heartless thugs” line.

Updated, May 7: On April 30, Merchan granted Trump’s request to attend his son’s graduation. The former president is reportedly also planning to attend a fundraiser in Minnesota on graduation day, which is May 17.

Updated, May 17: Trump attended his son’s graduation on May 17.

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