Washington - A federal judge is expected to set a date on Monday for what could be one of the most momentous trials in American history: the United States of America versus Donald J. Trump.
Special counsel Jack Smith has asked for the trial of the 45th US president -- who faces charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election which he lost -- to begin on January 2, 2024.
Trump’s attorneys have countered with a proposed date of April 2026 -- well after the November 2024 election in which the real estate tycoon is seeking to return to the White House.
Trump took to his social network, Truth Social, before the hearing got underway to demand that the case be dismissed, calling Smith “deranged” and accusing President Joe Biden of sowing “division, anger, and hatred.” “It will only get worse because these deranged lunatics know no bounds. Someday, however, Sanity will again prevail,” he posted as US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan began hearing arguments at a federal courthouse in Washington.
Trump pleaded not guilty to the charges in an early August court appearance and was not required to attend Monday’s procedural hearing.
Chutkan’s trial date decision could have a pivotal impact on Trump’s hopes of capturing the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and the White House. The 77-year-old has been slapped with four criminal indictments this year -- twice by Smith and once each by state prosecutors in New York and Georgia. But the case before Chutkan may pose the greatest legal peril to Trump -- particularly if it ends up being the first on what is shaping up to be a busy legal calendar for the former president.
“Judge Chutkan will likely set the trial to begin closer to the January 2, 2024 date that Smith proposed than the spring 2026 date that Trump proposed,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.
“She already warned Trump in open court that she would start the trial earlier if he did not stop making remarks that could intimidate or threaten jurors and witnesses,” Tobias told AFP. Whit Ayres, a veteran political consultant, said the order of the trials is very important. “If she sets the trial date for January 2, as she might, then I think it becomes a major, major event in the presidential race,” Ayres said in an online interview with Bill Kristol, a conservative Republican commentator turned staunch Trump critic.
“That would allow a trial, if it lasts four to six weeks, to finish before Super Tuesday (March 5, 2024), before the vast majority of Republican primary voters vote,” Ayres said.
‘Presidents are not kings
Trump is to go on trial in New York in March on charges of paying election-eve hush money to a porn star and in Florida in May for allegedly mishandling top secret government documents. Trump and 18 co-defendants also face racketeering charges in Georgia over their efforts to overturn the 2020 election result in the southern state. The judge presiding over the Georgia racketeering case has not yet set a firm date for that trial to begin. The case before Chutkan accuses Trump of conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding -- the January 6, 2021 joint session of Congress that was attacked by a mob of Trump supporters.