The federal trial of former president Donald Trump, who is accused of plotting to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, is moving forward despite the attempts by his legal team to delay it. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the case, has set a date for jury selection on February 9, 2024, and expects the trial to last about six weeks.
“This is not a case where we can just kick the can down the road. This is a case of significant national importance,” Chutkan said at a hearing on Monday.
Trump is facing charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and incitement of insurrection for his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters, who tried to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. He is also accused of pressuring state officials and members of his administration to help him overturn the election results.
Trump’s lawyer Jesse Binnall argued that the former president is immune from prosecution because he was acting within his official duties. He also challenged the constitutionality of the charges, claiming that they violate Trump’s free speech rights and that Congress has no authority to prosecute him.
“We are dealing with unprecedented issues of executive privilege and separation of powers. We need more time to prepare our defense and protect our client’s rights,” Binnall said.
Binnall also violated a gag order imposed by Chutkan, who ordered him to stop making public statements about the case. Chutkan said she was “extremely troubled” by Binnall’s comments to the media and warned him that he could face sanctions or contempt charges if he continues to do so.
The trial involves classified documents that Trump wants to keep secret, such as his communications with former vice president Mike Pence and former attorney general William Barr on January 6, 2021. The documents are relevant to the prosecution’s case, which alleges that Trump tried to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power and threatened his own officials if they did not comply with his demands.
The former president has invoked executive privilege to prevent the disclosure of the documents, arguing that they are sensitive and confidential. However, the Biden administration has waived executive privilege for some of the documents, saying that they are necessary for the public interest and accountability.
Chutkan said she will review the documents in camera, meaning in private, and decide which ones can be released to the parties and the public. She also hinted that she may delay some key dates in the trial schedule, such as the deadline for pretrial motions and discovery, until she resolves the issue of executive privilege.
“The court recognizes the importance of moving this case along expeditiously, but also recognizes the complexity and gravity of the issues involved,” Chutkan said.
The trial is expected to be one of the most high-profile and historic cases in U.S. history, as Trump is the first former president to face criminal charges for his actions while in office. The trial will also have political implications, as Trump remains a powerful and influential figure in the Republican Party and has not ruled out running for president again in 2024.
The former president has maintained his innocence and denounced the trial as a “witch hunt” and a “hoax”. He has also repeated his baseless claims that the election was rigged and stolen from him.
“I have nothing to hide. I did nothing wrong. The election was rigged and stolen from me. The fake news media and the radical left are trying to destroy me and my supporters. They will fail,” Trump said in a statement on Tuesday.
– Judge Chutkan: Full Steam Ahead with Speedy Trump Trial, The New Republic, November 2, 2023
– Judge signals she could delay key dates in Trump’s classified documents trial, The Guardian, November 1, 2023
– Judge floats delay of Trump’s classified documents trial, Politico, November 1, 2023
– Judge Hints She May Delay Trump’s Classified Documents Trial, Yahoo News, November 1, 2023