Trump's D.C. trial set for March 4, 2024

Trump’s D.C. trial set for March 4, 2024 – one day before Super Tuesday: Judge Chutkan reveals ex-president will stand trial in January 6 case BEFORE the election – as his lawyers slam ‘show trial’

  • Prosecutors wanted a Jan. 2 trial date; Team Trump proposed 2026
  • Trump lawyer John Lauro blasted a ‘show trial’
  • Judge Chutkan set date 7 months from indictment

Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan set a March 4, 2024 trial date for former President Donald Trump to face federal criminal charges in Washington, D.C. – setting up a historic court clash before the November elections.

She said the date following a grand jury indictment in special counsel Jack Smith’s January 6 probe ‘will give the defense adequate time to prepare for trial and insure the public’s interest in the case is resolved in timely manner.’

Announcing her decision after a heated courtroom showdown, the judge told lawyers she had consulted with the New York state Supreme Court justice Juan Marchan about Trump’s pending March 25 case in that jurisdiction, where he faces tax and fraud charges related to hush payments to former porn star Stormy Daniels.

She did not reference details of the political calendar – although Super Tuesday when a raft of states hold primary elections is set for March 5, in a presidential primary where Trump’s status as a criminal defendant looms large.

Both sides have predicted the trial itself could take four-to-six weeks, a period that could come before the end of the primary process, with around a dozen states yet to hold primaries. That could bring a verdict six months before voters head to the polls in November 2024.

She made the decision as Trump lawyer John Lauro cited an ‘avalanche’ of material Trump’s team needed to review to prepare for trial, and accused prosecutors of trying to force a ‘show trial.’

Former President Donald Trump must navigate a series of criminal trials during the presidential campaign season. Judge Tanya Chutkan scheduled a trial date for his trial related to his election overturn effort in Washington, D.C.

‘You are not going to get two more years,’ Chutkan told Lauro, blasting his own proposed timetable. ‘This case is not going to trial in 2026,’ she said.

Trump is accused of conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, defraud the government, and disenfranchise voters, in a streamlined indictment stemming from his election overturn effort. Unlike in the related case where Trump was arrested in Fulton County, Georgia last week, Trump is not charged along with other defendants.

As she announced her decision on the calendar, Judge Chutkan invoked the historic Scottsboro Boys case, where nine African American boys accused of raping two white teens were tried just 6 days after indictment. ‘This trial does not move the case forward with the haste of the mob,’ she said, 

She called Trump’s case ‘profoundly different.’

She said Trump was being represented by ‘a team of zealous and experienced attorneys,’ and said they had been given adequate time to prepare.

She said Trump ‘has known about the government’s investigation for nearly a year.’

‘Let’s not overlook the fact that Mr. Trump has considerable resources that every criminal defendant does not usually have,’ she said at one point.

Chutkan began a hearing Monday at a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C. by noting that Trump’s unique roll should not shield him from the need to establish a speedy date.  

‘Mr. Trump, like any defendant will have to make the trial date work, regardless of his schedule,’ said Chutkan.

She compared the matter to a hypothetical trial of a pro athlete. 

She said it would be ‘inappropriate for me to schedule a trial date to accommodate her schedule. The same is true here.’

Chutkan in introductory remarks noted the substantial gap between the government’s proposed January 2 trial date and Team Trump’s proposal to go to trial in 2026 – long after the November 2024 elections.  

‘These proposals are obviously very far apart,’ said Chutkan. ‘Neither of them is acceptable,’ she said.

‘This is a request for a show trial, not a speedy trial,’ fumed Trump lawyer John Lauro, inveighing against the government’s plan to begin January 2

‘These proposals are obviously very far apart,’ said Chutkan. ‘Neither of them is acceptable,’ said U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan

The sparring over a trial date comes less than a month after former President Donald Trump faced charges in federal court in Washington, D.C.

Judge Chutkan said she spoke to the New York judge overseeing the Stormy Daniels ‘hush’ payment case, which is also set for March, 2024

Lauro made a series of impassioned arguments, as judge Chutkan occasionally chided him to ‘turn the temperature down.’ 

‘We have to do our job as defense lawyers to represent a client,’ said Lauro. ‘This is a solemn obligation of every defense lawyer.’

‘For a federal prosecutor to suggest that we can go to trial in 4 months is not only absurd, but it’s a violation of the oath to do justice,’ said Lauro.

‘This is a request for a show trial, not a speedy trial,’ he fumed.

‘I like to be prepared for trial. I have an obligation to a client,’ Lauro continued. ‘This is an 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 also outlined a series of motions he planned to file – including accusing the government of ‘selective prosecution.’ He also plans to raise issues of ‘executive immunity.’

The government pushed for ‘the soonest possible trial date’ when the defense could ‘reasonably be ready.’

Prosecutor Molly Gaston noted that Trump was accused of attempting to overturn an election seeking to disenfranchise millions of Americans. 

She said it merited ‘prompt and full consideration of those claims in open court.’

On a near daily basis the defendant posts on social media about this case,’ Gaston said. ‘He has publicly disparaged witnesses, he has attacked the integrity of the court and of the citizens of the District of Columbia who make up our jury pool,’ she argued.

‘And this potentially prejudices the jury pool,’ she said – latching onto an argument that Judge Chutkan herself raised during Trump’s arraignment when she issued a warning about harassment.

Her chosen trial date is two months beyond what prosecutors had asked for. After she announced it, Lauro said on behalf of Trump that ‘we will certainly abide by your honor’s ruling as we must.’

But he told her: ‘we will not be able to provide adequate representation.’

Although Chutkan appeared to cast aside the political calendar with her comment about Trump being required to make the schedule work, her decision could have profound consequences.

Trump spend the days after his Thursday arrest in Georgia marketing his mug shot in that case, where he is charged with conspiracy linked to his overturn effort there.

He experienced a spike in fundraising following his indictment in the Stormy Daniels case. 

Among his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination is former Vice President Mike Pence, who could be a witness in the case, and has said he lacked the authority to reject votes certified by states as Trump pressured him to do on January 6.

Other Republican rivals are either either blasting prosecutions that Trump calls a witch hunt or criticizing his overturn effort. Trump and his multi-pronged legal predicament was a topic of the Republican presidential debate last week, although he himself did not take part. 

Judge Chutkan, who herself previously served as a public defender in Washington, pointed to some other high-profile cases. 

She noted that the trial will take place more than three years after a mob stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2020. She noted that the 2015 trial in the Boston marathon bombing took place two years after the incident.

She also referenced Zacarias Moussaoui, who was indicted a year after the Sept. 11th attacks (he was arrested in August, 2001 and pleaded guilty to conspiring to take part in the attacks). 

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