Trump’s Trial on Attempted Coup Charges Begins Day before Crucial Primaries*

Donald Trump’s calendar is bulging as the dates for election campaign events and his many trials coincide. The latest court decision clearly shows the situation Trump is facing.

Washington U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan has set a trial date of March 4, 2024 in the case against Donald Trump charging him with trying to overturn the 2020 election. Super Tuesday is the following day, a day marked by multiple state presidential primaries that help determine who will serve as the Republican presidential nominee next year’s general election.

“Today a biased, Trump Hating Judge gave me only a two-month extension, just what our corrupt government wanted, SUPER TUESDAY. I will APPEAL!” the former president said on his social network Truth Social, apparently unaware that he cannot appeal a trial date, but merely ask the court to reschedule.

Prosecutors sought a Jan. 2, 2024 trial date, while Trump’s defense team asked the court to schedule the trial … in 2026, arguing they needed time to prepare.

Many observers believe Trump is counting on winning the election in November 2024, so he can appoint an attorney general who will sweep the charges under the rug. It’s in Trump’s interest to postpone the trial.

All Trump’s Trials

Apart from the lawsuit in Washington, Trump faces other state charges related to an attack on democracy in Georgia. He pleaded not guilty to charges in Fulton County Superior Court on Aug. 31, and a first hearing on procedural motions in the case was set for Sept. 6. The prosecution is seeking an Oct. 23 trial date and the court will determine when the trial begins.

For now, certain defendants, including former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and several of his co-defendants are seeking to remove the case from state court to federal court. Meadows testified in favor of removal on Monday, and no decision was made. Removing the case could have consequences for all defendants, including Trump. The defendants would certainly prefer to be tried in the federal system because if Trump wins the election, he would be capable of issuing pardons to the defendants, something unavailable in state court convictions.

Meanwhile, Trump’s hush money trial is set to begin in New York next March 25, where state prosecutors are charging the former president with falsifying records in connection with payments made to a porn star in 2016.

In addition, he faces trial next May 20 in federal court in Florida on charges that he illegally stored classified documents and obstructed government efforts to retrieve them.

All this coincides with the Republican Party primary schedule, which begins on Jan. 15 in Iowa, and ends in mid-July with at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when the party will nominate its candidate to face Joe Biden in the presidential general election

Politics and legal battles clashed with Trump’s schedule this week already. The first debate among Republican presidential candidates took place in Milwaukee on Wednesday, the day before Trump appeared for arraignment in Georgia. Trump, who was released on bail, chose not to participate in the debate citing the huge advantage he maintains in opinion polls.

However, no one knows if Trump can afford to continue ignoring his opponents. The first polls after the debate (and Trump’s Georgia arrest) indicate he lost a few percentage points and he may be able to count on the 49% of Republican voters who support him on average. His biggest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, recently held 15% of Republican voters support, and 38-year-old entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has gained 10% in the polls. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence each hold 5% of the Republican voters’ support.

What Defense Will Trump’s Lawyers Present?

In setting the trial date for the federal case in Washington, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, nominated by former President Barack Obama, a judge who has already received death threats from Trump supporters, said she would not be guided by “the defendant’s personal and professional obligations. Mr. Trump, like any defendant, will have to make the trial date work regardless of his schedule.” Chutkan compared Trump to a professional athlete facing criminal charges, saying it would be “inappropriate” to schedule a trial around that athlete’s schedule.

Chutkan asserted that the defense will have sufficient time to prepare. John Lauro, one of Trump’s lawyers, had a different position.

“This is an enormous, overwhelming task. Never in the history of the United States have we seen a case of this magnitude go to trial in four months,” he argued.

In a way, he is right: A former president has simply never gone to trial in the history of the United States.

The prosecutor argued that Trump is very familiar with most of the approximately 12.8 million (!) pages of evidence involved in the indictment as they include his own tweets, documents from the National Archives and material from his campaign committees. Chutkan explained that the defendant has known what awaited him.

Lauro’s arguments in the motion regarding the trial date hinted at Trump’s defense strategy. Lauro argued that he needs considerable time to mount certain rare and exceptional defenses showing that the Department of Justice is selectively prosecuting his client and did not hold others accountable. Lauro said he further intends to argue that the former president, by virtue of his position, is immune from criminal liability; that obstruction charges are unprecedented in such cases; and finally, that Trump’s statements were protected by the First Amendment protection of free speech.

Of course, Lauro failed to mention the most important strategy — deliberately postponing trial.

*Editor’s note: The original language version of this article is available with a paid digital subscription to the publication.

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