Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges
The federal judge presiding over Special Counsel Jack Smith’s case against former President Trump, which alleges interference in the 2020 presidential election, set the trial date for March 4, 2024 – right in the middle of the GOP presidential primary calendar.
U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Tanya Chutkan rejected a proposal by Trump’s defense team that the trial begin in April 2026 – long after the results of the 2024 presidential election.
Instead, she set the date far closer to one proposed by Smith and the government, who wanted the trial to begin on Jan. 2, 2024. They suggested it would last approximately four to six weeks. That date would have fallen just weeks before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary.
But a criminal trial against a former president, who is also a candidate with a commanding lead over the GOP presidential field, being set in the middle of the primary cycle is likely to cause a political firestorm.
The judge said neither date was acceptable.
Once scheduled, defense attorney John Lauro told the judge that Trump’s defense team would abide by her ruling but that they would “not be able to provide adequate representation.”
“I feel the need to put that on the record,” Lauro said.
Chutkan said she understood Lauro’s position but added that she would issue an order with a pre-trial schedule.
There was a brief discussion in the courtroom of whether the defense team planned on polling citizens of the District of Columbia in an effort to determine whether to submit a motion for a change of venue.
Chutkan said she would be “watching very carefully for anything which might poison the jury pool.”
Lauro said the defense has not started such polling, but given the accelerated schedule for a trial, they may begin to do so, adding that he has never seen a judge restrict such action.
Chutkan replied that she had no intention to restrict anything of the sort but that she would be protective of the District of Columbia’s jury pool.
The trial date comes after Smith investigated whether Trump was involved in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, and any alleged interference in the 2020 election result.
On Aug. 1, Trump was indicted on four federal charges out of Smith’s Jan. 6 probe.
Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges, which included conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.
Separately, Trump pleaded not guilty to all 37 felony charges out of Smith’s classified records probe. The charges include willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice and false statements.
On July 27, Trump was charged with an additional three counts as part of a superseding indictment out of Smith’s investigation – an additional count of willful retention of national defense information and two additional obstruction counts.
A federal judge in Florida has scheduled a trial date for May 20, 2024.
President Biden is also under special counsel investigation for his alleged improper retention of classified records. The status of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s probe is unclear.
Brooke Singman is a Fox News Digital politics reporter.
You can reach her at [email protected] or @BrookeSingman on Twitter.