Status: 04.12.2023, 10:52 a.m.
The criminal trials against Donald Trump are progressing slowly. But it is unclear whether there will be verdicts before the 2024 presidential election.
Welcome back to the Trump trials, where we're knee-deep in prosecution and defense motions, awaiting decisions on the trial date in Georgia, Donald Trump's appeal against his news blackout in Washington, and a host of other issues leading up to the trial.
If Trump wins the 2024 U.S. election, he won't be able to face a criminal trial in Georgia until 2029 at the earliest — after leaving the presidency, his defense attorney from Atlanta argued in a courtroom on Friday. The prosecution has demanded a trial to begin in August 2024 - and firmly rejected the 2029 option. Now, we're waiting for Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who said Friday (Dec. 1) that it's too early to set a date. Among other things, he cited the uncertain timetable in Trump's three other criminal proceedings.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump at the New York State Supreme Court on Monday, November 6, 2023, in New York City (symbolic image). © David Dee Delgado/Imago
Trump's lawyers want information from the state apparatus
In the Washington, D.C., election obstruction case, special prosecutor Jack Smith has upcoming deadlines to fend off Trump's sweeping and sometimes fanciful demands for information, which he says exists in a number of government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Capitol Police. The claims are far-fetched from a legal point of view, but Trump's lawyers said last week that the information will help them fight the allegations that the former president conspired to falsify the results of the 2020 election.
News blackouts: Muzzle for Donald Trump remains in force
Trump's judicial news blackouts prohibit him from talking about some of the people involved in his federal criminal case in Washington and his civil fraud trial in New York. Here's where things stand this week:
The news blackout in Washington is not in effect. After Judge Tanya S. Chutkan issued a tight news blackout that limited what the former president could say about the case, Trump's lawyers appealed. The U.S. Court of Appeals has stayed the injunction to decide whether such an injunction is constitutional. We are still waiting for this decision.
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Fancy a voyage of discovery?
The New York news blackout is in effect. On Thursday (Nov. 30), a New York appeals court reinstated the order preventing Trump from speaking publicly about employees of the court.
Now a summary of the events of the past week.
1. D.C.: Federal court proceedings on the 2020 election
- The details: Four counts related to conspiracy to interfere with the 2020 election results.
- Scheduled hearing date: March 4
- What happened: Chutkan ruled that Trump cannot claim "absolute immunity" from prosecution for actions taken during his presidency and rejected Trump's motion to dismiss the charges. The battle for presidential power is likely to come to the Supreme Court.
In another case, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled that Trump can be held civilly liable for the attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021, meaning he can be sued and may have to pay the victims. Two U.S. Capitol police officers and about a dozen Democratic lawmakers filed the lawsuit, claiming Trump instigated the violence by urging his supporters to march to the Capitol and "fight like hell."
Trump, who claims he is protected from lawsuits by the president's immunity, is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court.
2. Georgia: 2020 Election Indictment – Ex-Trump Lawyer Offers Himself as a Witness
- The details: Trump is indicted in 13 states for allegedly trying to manipulate the election results in that state. Four of his 18 co-defendants have pleaded guilty.
- Scheduled trial date: Not yet known.
- What else happened last week: Our colleagues Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Amy Gardner reported that there are efforts to persuade Kenneth Chesebro - a former Trump lawyer who pleaded guilty in Georgia - to cooperate with state investigations into election interference in Nevada and Arizona.
At Friday's hearing in Fulton County, Judge McAfee said he was considering splitting the remaining 15 defendants — a group that includes Trump — into two subgroups for the trial, but would not make a decision until next year.
The lawyers discussed a number of legal issues at the hearing, including the defense's claim that prosecutor Fani T. Willis far exceeded her authority when she ventured to use federal laws such as the Election Count Act to bring charges. This leads us to our ...
Nerd Word of the Week
The nerd word of the week is once again an acronym: ECA. The Electoral Count Act of 1887 specifies how the electoral votes for the president are to be counted. In 2020, Trump and his allies tried to argue that the law gives the vice president a significant say in the counting of votes — a claim that has been questioned by most legal experts. The law was updated last year to clarify the responsibilities of the vice president, legislatures and states in certifying the results of a presidential election.
3. Florida: The Secret Documents from the White House
- The details: Trump is being indicted by 40 federal agencies for allegedly keeping top-secret government documents at Mar-a-Lago — his home and private club — and thwarting government demands for their return.
- Scheduled hearing date: May 20
- What happened: This week, some new files were filed in the case. Most are sealed – which was to be expected in a case involving national security secrets. The parties are in dispute over how the classified information can be used in the process on the basis of the steps set out in the Classified Information Procedures Act.
4. New York: Nothing new in the hush money trial
- The details: 34 charges related to a hush money payment in 2016.
- Scheduled hearing date: March 25
- Last week: There is nothing to report here this week either. But nearby, in New York's civil court, Trump's lawyers continue to fight the state's allegations that Trump and his real estate firm fraudulently inflated the values of their properties.
Our colleague Shayna Jacobs reports that several defense witnesses spoke about how Deutsche Bank made millions by doing business with the Trump family. These testimonies were intended to refute the accusation that the bank was defrauded of its profits by Trump's alleged fraud. The trial is expected to conclude in a few weeks - Trump is likely to return to the witness stand on December 11.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have the dates for the criminal trial already been set? And why are they so far away?
The trial date is set by a judge after hearing recommendations from prosecutors and defense lawyers. The judges take into account how much time they need to discuss and clarify the legal and evidentiary parameters of the case. But the date is often postponed.
In the Florida case, for example, Trump's lawyers said they needed more time to review the evidence during the investigation. The judge postponed many deadlines in the run-up to the trial and said she would decide in March whether the hearing date in May would remain.
So no, trial dates are never set in stone.
About the authors
Perry Stein covers the Department of Justice and the FBI for The Washington Post, and previously covered education in Washington. Prior to joining the Post in 2015, she was a contributor to the Washington City Paper and wrote for the Miami Herald.
Devlin Barrett writes about the FBI and the Department of Justice and is the author of "October Surprise: How the FBI Tried to Save Itself and Crashed an Election." He was one of the reportage teams that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 and 2022. In 2017, he was a co-finalist for the Pulitzer for Feature Writing and the Pulitzer for International Reporting.
We are currently testing machine translations. This article has been automatically translated from English into German.
This article was first published in English by the "Washingtonpost.com" on December 4, 2023 - in the course of a cooperation, it is now also available in translation to the readers of IPPEN. MEDIA portals.