May 30, 2024
The former president's attorneys argued that an April 2026 trial date was necessary to account for the huge volume of evidence they say they are reviewing.

By Eric Tucker, Lindsay Whitehurst and Michael Kunzelman | Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A judge on Monday set a March 4, 2024, trial date for Donald Trump in the federal case in Washington charging the former president with trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election, rejecting a defense request to push back the case by years.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan rebuffed claims by Trump’s attorneys that an April 2026 trial date was necessary to account for the huge volume of evidence they say they are reviewing and to prepare for what they contend is a novel and unprecedented prosecution. But she agreed to postpone the trial slightly beyond the January 2024 date proposed by special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution team.

“The public has a right to a prompt and efficient resolution of this matter,” Chutkan said.

If the current date holds, it would represent a setback to Trump’s efforts to push the case back until well after the 2024 presidential election, a contest in which he’s the early front-runner for the Republican nomination. The March 2024 date would also guarantee a blockbuster trial in the nation’s capitol in the heat of the GOP presidential nominating calendar, likely forcing Trump to juggle campaign and courtroom appearances, and it would come the day before Super Tuesday — a crucial voting day when the largest number of delegates are up for grabs.

“I want to note here that setting a trial date does not depend and should not depend on the defendant’s personal or professional obligations,” Chutkan said.

The setting of the trial date came despite strong objections from Trump lawyer John Lauro. He said defense lawyers had received an enormous trove of records from Smith’s team — a prosecutor put the total at more than 12 million pages — and that the case concerned novel legal issues that would require significant time to sort out.

“This is one of the most unique cases from a legal perspective ever brought in the history of the United States. Ever,” Lauro said.

Prosecutor Molly Gaston countered that the public had an unquestionable interest in moving the case forward and said that the general evidence in the case has long been well known to the defense.

“What is the balance of the defendant’s right and need to prepare for trial and, on the other hand, the public’s exceedingly and unprecedently strong interest in a speedy trial?” Gaston said. Trump, she said, is accused of “attempting to overturn an election and disenfranchise millions.”

“There is an incredibly strong public interest in a jury’s full consideration of those claims in open court,” Gaston said.

Trump, a Republican, was charged earlier this month in a four-count indictment with scheming to undo his loss to Joe Biden, a Democrat, in the 2020 election.

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The federal election subversion prosecution is one of four criminal cases against Trump. Smith’s team has brought a separate federal case accusing him of illegally retaining classified documents at his Palm Beach, Florida, property, Mar-a-Lago, and refusing to give them back. That case is currently set for trial next May 20.

Trump also faces state cases in New York and Georgia. Manhattan prosecutors have charged him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment to a porn actor who has said she had an extramarital affair with Trump, while prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, have charged Trump and 18 others in a racketeering conspiracy aimed at undoing that state’s 2020 election.

Trump, the early front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, surrendered Thursday in that case, posing with a scowling face for the first mug shot in American history of a former U.S. president. He has claimed the investigations of him are politically motivated and are an attempt to damage his chances of winning back the White House.

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