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Smith Cites Trump Lawyer’s Own Words to Justify Jan. 2, 2024, Trial Date

Trump’s lawyer laid out defenses for his client on national TV, demonstrating readiness for a trial, Smith claims.

Special Counsel Jack Smith delivers remarks on a recently unsealed indictment including four felony counts against former U.S. President Donald Trump on August 1, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

As Donald Trump tries to delay the trial regarding his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, Department of Justice (DOJ) special counsel Jack Smith has proposed an early trial date, citing recent televised comments by the former president’s lawyer that he has already developed a legal strategy to defend his client.

Judge Tanya Chutkan previously issued an order for both sides to propose potential dates for the trial. On Thursday, Smith and the DOJ requested that the trial begin on January 2, 2024 — just three days prior to the third anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump loyalists seeking to overturn the election.

Smith’s filing indicated that the trial would last between a month and two months, which would coincide with the start of the GOP nomination process, as Republicans’ Iowa caucuses are set to take place on January 15.

The DOJ defended the proposed trial date within its filing, writing:

This trial date, and the proposed schedule outlined below, would give the defendant time to review the discovery in this case and prepare a defense, and would allow the Court and parties to fully litigate any pre-trial legal issues. Most importantly, a January 2 trial date would vindicate the public’s strong interest in a speedy trial.

Perhaps in anticipation of the likely argument from Trump’s legal team that the trial date is too soon, Smith’s team included in their filing a footnote, writing, “It appears that [the] defense counsel is already planning which motions the defendant will file.” The DOJ then made reference to media appearances by Trump lawyer John Lauro after the indictment charges were announced, including on CBS News, where the lawyer described First Amendment and privilege claims he would likely bring up during the trial.

The DOJ’s filing also pointed out that previous claims made by the defense didn’t make sense.

“Defense counsel claimed, both in a media interview and in the initial hearing, that the Government has been investigating this matter for three and a half years, while the defense is starting with a blank slate,” the filing stated, noting that their claim was impossible, since the Capitol attack was only two and a half years ago.

“Furthermore, the defendant and his counsel have long been aware of details of the Government’s investigation leading to his indictment, having had first contact with Government counsel in June 2022,” the DOJ went on, citing evidence that was made public during the January 6 committee hearings.

A speedy trial is more appropriate, Smith and the DOJ said, and is a right that is “vested in the public, not just the defendant.”

“The defendant has a greater and more detailed understanding of the evidence supporting the charges against him at the outset of this criminal case than most defendants, and is ably advised by multiple attorneys, including some who have represented him in this matter for the last year,” the filing said.

Trump responded to the request by peddling unfounded claims on his Truth Social account that the trial date was an attempt by the Biden administration to interfere with the 2024 presidential election.

“Such a trial, which should never take place due to my First Amendment Rights, and massive BIDEN CORRUPTION, should only happen, if at all, AFTER THE ELECTION,” Trump wrote.

Notably, Trump’s complaints focus on his political future rather than on timeliness or the ability of his counsel to present a viable defense — which could be used in future arguments as evidence that the former president isn’t overly concerned with the timeframe.

Trump has a strong incentive to delay the trial as much as possible. If he can push the trial date beyond the 2024 election and is able to win the presidency, Trump could appoint a new attorney general to run the DOJ, who could then drop all charges that have been levied against him at the federal level.

In the other case Smith has managed as special counsel, involving Trump’s improper post-presidential transfer of government documents to his Mar-a-Lago estate, the DOJ requested a trial date in December 2023, only to have Judge Aileen Cannon — the Trump-appointed judge who is overseeing the case — delay the trial until next May.

However, that outcome is not necessarily an indicator of whether Smith’s current request will be approved, as there are important distinctions between the cases. For starters, the Mar-a-Lago documents case involves thousands of classified materials and evidence that will take a significant amount of time for lawyers to sift through. Cannon has also demonstrated a propensity to give Trump leeway on his dubious claims of executive privilege, while the judge overseeing Trump’s other federal case, Judge Tanya Chutkan, has forcefully rejected those claims.

Even if Smith is unsuccessful in securing the trial date he proposed, his request could still result in an early 2024 trial.

“This is a very aggressive proposal by Jack Smith’s team,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti said on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. “I would think of this proposal as an ‘anchor’ meant to put a marker down and orient the discussion towards a very early/quick trial date in the January 6th case.”

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