After a federal judge established a March 4, 2024, court date for former President Donald Trump in the federal case regarding his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, Trump logged onto his Truth Social site and promised to appeal the decision — something he and his lawyers don’t actually have the power to do.
Earlier this month, after a vote by a grand jury, Trump was indicted by Department of Justice (DOJ) special counsel Jack Smith of four charges relating to his attempts to subvert the democratic preference of American voters in the 2020 election.
After the charges were made, arguments commenced over when to start the trial. Smith’s office initially requested an earlier court date, of January 2, 2024, for the start of the trial. Trump’s lawyers, meanwhile, asked for the trial to be delayed until April 2026 — a timeframe that, if Trump wins the presidential election next year, would allow him to appoint a new attorney general who could effectively drop all charges against him.
District Judge Tanya Chutkan heard final arguments between the two parties on Monday, during which time she frequently instructed Trump’s lawyer John Lauro to calm his demeanor.
Chutkan came to the conclusion that the trial should begin this coming spring, on March 4 — one day before the Super Tuesday nominating contests in the Republican primaries. The date, six months and a week from today, is “adequate time” for Trump’s legal team to prepare for the trial, Chutkan said, adding that it was in “the public’s interest” to “[see] this case resolved in a timely manner.”
Lauro responded to Chutkan’s decision with anger, claiming that the initial request from the DOJ was “for a show trial.”
“Let’s take the temperature down,” Chutkan told Lauro during the hearing on Monday.
Chutkan also dismissed arguments that it was problematic to schedule a trial in the midst of the GOP primaries because Trump is a 2024 presidential candidate.
“Setting a trial date does not depend and should not depend on the defendant’s personal and professional obligations,” Chutkan said, noting that the same standard applies to professional athletes in high-profile cases. “Mr. Trump, like any defendant, will have to make the trial date work regardless of his schedule.”
Trump condemned the decision on his Truth Social account, denouncing it as “election interference” and referring to Chutkan as a “Trump Hating Judge.”
“I will APPEAL!” Trump added in the post.
Legal experts said that Trump’s post was an empty threat; while Trump can file motions that will delay the trial, he cannot actually appeal the judge’s decision this week.
“He can’t appeal the judge’s scheduling order,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti said on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.
CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers echoed that sentiment in comments to The Messenger.
“He cannot appeal the trial date,” Rodgers explained. “He can continue to request that it be moved back, and ultimately, if he is convicted, he can try to argue that the decision to try the case when it was tried deprived him of the ability to prepare adequately, but that’s an uphill battle.”
“As a former federal law clerk in the same D.C. District Court, and a federal prosecutor and white-collar defense lawyer for the decades that followed, I can report that there is nothing more sacred to a federal judge than his or her courtroom calendar,” former prosecutor Robert Katzberg wrote for Slate about Trump’s plan to appeal. “Absent unusual elements that do not exist in this case, the date selected by Judge Chutkan will be changed only if she says so.”
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