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Trump’s legal and political calendars poised to clash

The former president has claimed prosecutions are ‘Election Interference’

Former President Donald Trump points at the crowd Aug. 13 as he attends Round 3 of the LIV Golf-Bedminster 2023 at the Trump National in Bedminster, N.J.
Former President Donald Trump points at the crowd Aug. 13 as he attends Round 3 of the LIV Golf-Bedminster 2023 at the Trump National in Bedminster, N.J. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s legal calendar has started to clash with the race for the Republican presidential nomination next year, as the schedules for a string of civil cases and historic prosecutions start to fill in the backdrop of his comeback bid for the White House.

This week, prosecutors in Atlanta have given Trump until Friday to voluntarily surrender for charges included in a 41-count indictment that accused him and 18 others of operating as a “criminal organization” as they sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia.

On Wednesday, Fox News will host a Republican presidential primary debate in Wisconsin, giving Trump opponents a platform and an opportunity to tee off on what the indictments say about his fitness to be the party’s nominee.

Trump already indicated that he would skip the debate. A federal judge in Florida had tentatively scheduled a hearing for Friday in the federal criminal case against Trump related to classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago property, but canceled it without giving a reason.

The court calendar won’t clear anytime soon for Trump, who remains a strong favorite to be the Republican nominee for 2024. Trial dates are scattered throughout early 2024, while voters will officially start to weigh in in January and many presidential primaries will follow in March.

Trump on Saturday posted on social media a repeat of his claims that the prosecutions are “Election Interference” and wrote that he is being forced “into the time and expense of trials, especially before the Election.”

Next week, a federal judge in Washington will hold a hearing to determine a trial schedule for the criminal case there related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Special Counsel John L. “Jack” Smith and other prosecutors have proposed that trial start Jan. 2, but Trump’s attorneys have suggested April 2026 — more than a year after the November 2024 presidential election.

Busy schedule

Trump attorneys in a filing Thursday cited the enormous breadth of discovery information handed over by the Justice Department, arguing the government’s timeline would violate the former president’s right to due process.

His attorneys also pointed to the other criminal cases he’s facing, including a March trial start date in New York on state charges he falsified business records and a May trial start date in a Florida federal court in the classified documents case.

“President Trump must prepare for each of these trials in the coming months. All are independently complex and will require substantial work to defend,” the Trump attorneys wrote in the filing. “Several will likely require President Trump’s presence at some or all trial proceedings.

“Moreover, beyond trial, these cases will include numerous pre-and-post trial hearings that will invariably conflict with the government’s proposed trial calendar here,” the attorneys wrote.

The attorneys argued that Trump’s duty to prepare for the Washington case does not stop because of other cases. But they said the court should consider the “practical effects these parallel prosecutions will have on President Trump’s ability to meet the extraordinarily brief deadlines the government proposes.”

Judge Tanya Chutkan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who is overseeing the criminal case there, emphasized last week that she will not allow the former president’s campaign to influence her decisions.

The judge, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, made clear that Trump’s reelection priorities would take a back seat to the integrity of the case, at one point saying she would “take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings.”

The more a party makes “inflammatory statements” about a case, she said, the more urgency there was to go quickly to trial.

Other trials

There are also trials scheduled in three civil cases in the coming months, starting with an October trial in a civil fraud case brought by New York. In January, a trial is scheduled in a federal defamation case brought by E. Jean Carroll in New York, where a judge has already denied Trump’s attempt to delay it.

Later in January is a scheduled trial in a federal civil class action case in New York that accuses Trump of promoting and endorsing a pyramid scheme.

The sprawling criminal case from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, the Georgia prosecutor, could further complicate Trump’s schedule but the ambitious schedule her office proposed appears unlikely to happen.

Willis is seeking a trial start date of March 4 — the day before more than a dozen states hold presidential primaries on Super Tuesday. But that timeline is not likely given the breadth and scope of the criminal case, which is centered on the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law, known as RICO.

Also, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a Trump co-defendant who is charged in the Georgia case, is pushing to transfer his case from the state level to federal court. He also is seeking to get the charges thrown out.

A federal judge in Georgia will hold an evidentiary hearing Aug. 28 on the request, and action could be a bellwether for Trump if he seeks to move his case from Georgia state court to the federal system.