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Judge sets Trump’s 2020 election interference trial for 4 March 2024

Judge sets Trump’s 2020 election interference trial for 4 March 2024
Former US president Donald Trump. (Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

That means the trial is set to start the day before Super Tuesday when 14 states, including delegate-rich Texas and California, hold their primaries.

Donald Trump’s trial in Washington is set for March 4 on federal charges that he conspired to obstruct the 2020 presidential election.

That means the trial is set to start the day before Super Tuesday when 14 states, including delegate-rich Texas and California, hold their primaries.

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan announced the date on Monday after hearing arguments. Special Counsel John “Jack” Smith’s office had asked to start on 2 January, kicking off Trump’s crowded campaign and legal calendar next year. Trump argued to delay the trial until April 2026, long after voters decide in November if he’ll get a second term in the White House. Chutkan said during the hearing that neither of those proposals was “acceptable”. 

Chutkan said that while 2 January would be too soon, Trump’s proposed trial date in April 2026 “is far beyond what is necessary”.

The judge said that a two-year delay risked the danger of witnesses becoming unavailable and memories fading. She said that the public had a right to a “prompt” resolution of the case.

Read More: Trump proposes April 2026 trial in DOJ election case

Chutkan granted a motion by Trump’s legal team to exclude 25 days since his initial appearance from the speedy trial calendar.

Prosecutor Molly Gaston said that the government had already turned over the vast majority of evidence, totalling roughly 12.8 million pages, though she added they didn’t believe that was the best metric for measuring the defence’s workload.

Gaston said the evidence included a “roadmap” to the government’s case contained in an annotated version of the indictment that matches pieces of evidence to paragraphs in the charging papers. That’s in a core set of 47,000 pages of “key documents” turned over to Trump’s team, Gaston said.

Trump’s attorney John Lauro called the idea that they could get to trial in four months “an outrage to justice”. Raising his voice at times, he argued they needed far more time to prepare and said the government’s suggestion they already could be reviewing material that government agencies had — like White House records with the National Archives — was “absurd and ridiculous”.

Chutkan at one point asked Lauro to “take the temperature down”. She questioned why it wouldn’t speed up preparation to have evidence produced electronically in an easy-to-search format. Chutkan pressed Lauro to set aside “rhetoric” and provide a reasonable estimate for the time needed to prepare. Lauro replied that despite the ability to do electronic searches of documents, they still had a “gargantuan” amount of material to absorb and argued it would be unfair if Chutkan considered whether they started doing prep before the indictment was handed up.

Gaston argued the judge should set a date as soon as the defence could “reasonably” be ready because Trump’s online posts attacking the integrity of the court and citizens of Washington risked prejudicing the potential jury pool. 

Setting schedules in the four criminal cases facing the former president has been an early source of conflict, especially as the presidential primary season picks up. Trump has a trial set in late March on state charges in New York that he falsified business records in connection with hush money payments to an adult film star. Chutkan said she had spoken to the judge in New York about the schedule in that case. In May, he’s scheduled to stand trial on federal charges that he mishandled classified documents and conspired to obstruct government efforts to get them back.

In Atlanta, where Trump most recently was indicted on state charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, his legal team is expected to fight a request by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to start the trial in October. Prosecutors had originally asked for an early March date, but moved that up after one of Trump’s co-defendants invoked his right to a speedy trial schedule. 

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges in all of the cases and has denounced them all as politically motivated attacks. DM

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