We kicked off the new year with this big legal question for 2024: Which of Donald Trump’s criminal cases will go to trial first? This could be a big week to answer that question more definitively, as important action takes place in all four of the former president’s prosecutions.
Arguably the most important is in the federal election interference case. Trump’s pretrial immunity claim has been holding that one up, leading U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to wipe the early March trial date from the calendar. But now that the federal appeals court has roundly rejected Trump’s immunity claim, the next question is whether the Supreme Court will intervene needlessly or let the D.C. Circuit ruling stand so the case can get back to Chutkan for trial before the election. Trump has through Monday to ask the Supreme Court to keep the D.C. Circuit ruling paused while he appeals to the justices.
Then there’s the New York state case for allegedly falsifying business records to cover up hush money paid ahead of the 2016 election. I noted at the beginning of this year that delays in the D.C. case “could leave the Manhattan case as the first indictment to go to a jury.” That may turn out to be so. The New York case has a pretrial hearing set for Thursday, and because the federal election interference case’s status may still be uncertain, the hush money trial may be on more solid footing to start late next month.
In the classified documents case, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has seemingly been slow-walking the prosecution against the man who put her on the bench. The case is in closed-door hearings on Monday, and special counsel Jack Smith recently called out Trump’s plan “to delay trial as long as possible.” Cannon previously set a May date but that start date is far from certain. Even if it doesn’t start then, that might not be a total loss for Smith, who’s also prosecuting the federal election interference case. If the hush money trial goes ahead in late March and Trump’s pretrial immunity claim is fully resolved against him, then the D.C. case could slide into that late spring slot or not long after.
That leaves the Georgia election interference case, where the defense is looking to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. There isn’t presently reason to think that effort will succeed, but that case also doesn't have a trial date as yet. We’ll see what happens in a Thursday hearing on the disqualification issue, which may help to set the course for the next phase in Georgia.
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