Federal judge overseeing Trump election interference case indefinitely postpones trial start date News
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Federal judge overseeing Trump election interference case indefinitely postpones trial start date

A DC federal judge indefinitely postponed the trial date in former US President Donald Trump’s 2020 election interference case. US District Judge Tanya Chutkan vacated the trial date, originally set for March 4, since both parties are still awaiting a decision from the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Trump’s claim of immunity. Chutkan previously stayed any further court filings in the case for the same reason.

Chutkan originally set March 4 as the start date for Trump’s trial before a DC jury in a August 28, 2023 pretrial order. With her Friday order, however, that date is now indefinitely postponed. Chutkan has not yet set a new trial date, as it is unclear when the DC Circuit will issue their decision on Trump’s immunity claim and if there will be any further appeal of the issue. Chutkan’s Friday order stated, “The court will set a new schedule if and when the mandate is returned.”

The DC Circuit heard oral arguments on Trump’s claim of immunity on January 9. The court did so under an expedited schedule, following a request from the lead prosecutor on the case, Special Counsel Jack Smith. Because of this expedited schedule, it was expected that the court would quickly issue a decision on the issue. As of the time of Chutkan’s Friday order, however, nearly a month has elapsed since oral arguments before the court.

Smith had originally sought an expedited review of the issue of Trump’s immunity claim before the US Supreme Court. Smith argued, “This case presents a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy.” For that reason, Smith stated, “It is of imperative public importance that [Trump’s] claims of immunity be resolved by this Court and that respondent’s trial proceed as promptly as possible if his claim of immunity is rejected.” The US Supreme Court, however, declined to take up the issue before the DC Circuit.

Even if the DC Circuit were to issue its decision on Trump’s claim of immunity this week, there are still multiple avenues of further review of the issue available to the losing party. The losing party of the appeal could ask for the DC Circuit to rehear the issue en banc, meaning all 11 judges that sit on the bench would hear the issue instead of just the three that heard arguments on January 9. Even after that, the losing party could seek further review of the issue before the US Supreme Court.

Chutkan’s decision to postpone the trial date in this case may impact the other three criminal cases Trump currently faces. The delay means that Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg may be the first to proceed on criminal charges against the former president, based on allegations that Trump falsified documents around the 2016 US presidential election. Bragg previously stated that he was willing to push the start of his trial against Trump to a later date in deference to the federal cases. However, recent reporting from the New York Times suggested that Bragg has started to assemble his prosecution team and witnesses. Though no date is set for trial yet, the judge overseeing the New York-based case is expected to pick a date during a February 15 hearing.