Trump case: Federal judge to decide trial date
At 77 years old, Trump finds himself entangled in a legal quagmire, facing four criminal indictments this year alone.
A federal judge is expected to set a date on Monday for what could be one of the most momentous trials in American history: the United States of America versus Donald J. Trump.
Special counsel Jack Smith has asked for the trial of the 45th US president — who faces charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election which he lost — to begin on January 2, 2024.
Trump’s attorneys have countered with a proposed date of April 2026 — well after the November 2024 election in which the real estate tycoon is seeking to return to the White House.
US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan is to entertain the arguments of both sides at a 10:00 am (1400 GMT) hearing on Monday at a federal courthouse in the nation’s capital.
Chutkan’s trial date decision could have a pivotal impact on Trump’s hopes of capturing the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and the White House.
The 77-year-old Trump has been slapped with four criminal indictments this year — twice by Smith and once each by state prosecutors in New York and Georgia.
But the case before Chutkan may pose the greatest legal peril to Trump — particularly if it ends up being the first on what is shaping up to be a busy legal calendar for the former president.
“Judge Chutkan will likely set the trial to begin closer to the January 2, 2024 date that Smith proposed than the spring 2026 date that Trump proposed,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.
“She already warned Trump in open court that she would start the trial earlier if he did not stop making remarks that could intimidate or threaten jurors and witnesses,” Tobias told AFP.
Whit Ayres, a veteran political consultant, said the order of the trials is very important.
“If she sets the trial date for January 2, as she might, then I think it becomes a major, major event in the presidential race,” Ayres said in an online interview with Bill Kristol, a conservative Republican commentator turned staunch Trump critic.
“That would allow a trial, if it lasts four to six weeks, to finish before Super Tuesday (March 5, 2024), before the vast majority of Republican primary voters vote,” Ayres said.
‘PRESIDENTS ARE NOT KINGS’
Trump is to go on trial in New York in March on charges of paying election-eve hush money to a porn star and in Florida in May for allegedly mishandling top secret government documents.
Trump and 18 co-defendants also face racketeering charges in Georgia over their efforts to overturn the 2020 election result in the southern state.
The judge presiding over the Georgia racketeering case has not yet set a firm date for that trial to begin.
The case before Chutkan accuses Trump of conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding — the January 6, 2021 joint session of Congress that was attacked by a mob of Trump supporters.
Trump, the sole defendant in this indictment, is also accused of seeking to disenfranchise American voters with his false claims he won the 2020 election.
Ayres said that if Trump, who currently enjoys a commanding lead over the Republican 2024 field, is acquitted in his first trial he would be all but certain to win the party’s presidential nomination.
“I don’t know any way you’d stop him,” he said.
“But if he gets convicted of a serious felony charge, I don’t know how people would react to that, because we’ve never had anything remotely close to a similar situation,” the Republican pollster said.
“I’d have to think that a serious felony charge, maybe coupled with some prison time, would at least cause some people to rethink their support for the former president.”
The 61-year-old Chutkan, who was appointed by former Democratic president Barack Obama, has handed down some of the stiffest sentences to participants in the attack on the US Capitol, and Trump has accused her of being “highly partisan” and “very biased.”
Chutkan also has a legal history with Trump — she ruled against him in a November 2021 case, notably declaring that “presidents are not kings.”