- Legal experts said that former President Donald Trump’s criminal trials are unlikely to occur before the 2024 general election.
- Trump’s criminal proceedings in four jurisdictions are currently in a pre-trial phase, involving discovery, motions, jury selection and interlocutory appeals — which experts believe will delay the process by over a year.
- “It’s like asking a brain surgeon to perform an operation with three days’ notice,” said Alan Dershowitz.
Legal experts have said that former President Donald Trump’s trials in four separate criminal proceedings are unlikely to be held before the general election in November 2024.
Trump, who is the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has been indicted four times in New York, Florida, Washington, D.C. and Georgia on state and federal charges. Following Trump’s initial appearances, prosecutors in each jurisdiction have been seeking a speedy trial despite protests from his legal team, with experts saying it’s likely that the trials will occur after the general election.
“They’re trying to get convictions before the election,” said Alan Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of the book “Get Trump,” to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “[But] they can’t get it done in two weeks, they know it will take longer than that.”
Dershowitz’s comments refer to the initial attempt by Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is prosecuting Trump in Miami and Washington, D.C., to have the latter trial begin on Jan. 2, 2024, two weeks before the Iowa Caucuses. Trump has moved to have the trial pushed back to April 2026.
Meanwhile, in Florida, a federal judge tentatively set Aug. 14, 2024, as the beginning of his trial in Smith’s other case, where Trump is accused of violating the Espionage Act by refusing to return classified documents he stored at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida, during his presidency.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has requested that Trump’s Georgia trial begin on March 4, 2024. After one of Trump’s co-defendants, Kenneth Chesebro, asserted his constitutional right to a speedy trial, Willis’s office moved for the trial to begin on Oct. 23, 2023.
Trump has opposed Willis’ request and filed a motion in opposition on Thursday. The complexity of the case and others Trump is facing, as well as the likelihood of appeals to pre-trial proceedings, lead legal experts to believe that it is unlikely any of Trump’s trials will begin before Nov. 5, 2024, when the general election is held.
“[I]t seems unlikely that most [trials] will proceed as scheduled. There are threshold challenges and dispositive motions that will have to be addressed. Some may involve appeals,” said Jonathan Turley, the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro professor of public interest law at The George Washington University Law School, to the DCNF. He added that “[t]hese dates seem highly optimistic and a tad opportunistic by prosecutors.”
In New York, where Trump has been indicted on 34 counts for allegedly falsifying business records related to his $150,000 payment to Stormy Daniels via former attorney Michael Cohen, his trial date has been scheduled for March 25, 2024, according to a judge’s oral order reported by The New York Times. By that date, all but four states will have held their presidential primary contests, according to 270ToWin.com.
“It’s like asking a brain surgeon to perform an operation with three days’ notice,” said Dershowitz, who said the prosecutors are trying to obtain “convictions [of Trump] before the election … it’s a rush to injustice.” He added that the courts will “probably need at least a year” in order to dispose of all pre-trial matters.
Those matters include the process of “discovery,” referring to the defendant’s efforts to gather evidence from the prosecution and construct a defense, motions to exclude evidence, jury selection and interlocutory appeals to the trial judge’s decisions by either party. “Jury selection alone in Georgia’s cases will take several months,” Dershowitz said, adding that “if [the courts] don’t accept the discovery timeline of Trump’s team, these are issues that could be appealed.”
The volume of discovery in each case is voluminous, particularly in Washington, D.C., where Trump has been charged related to his attempts to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election on Jan. 6, 2021. In that case, prosecutors turned over 11.6 million pages of discovery to Trump’s legal team following his arrangement on Aug. 3, much of which is subject to strict viewership requirements to safeguard witnesses, according to a court order
“If Trump loses his motions, he will appeal. If he loses at appellate court, he’ll ask to be heard before the Supreme Court. If there’s a ruling in favor of Trump, the state will likely appeal,” said Ronald Carlson, the Fuller E. Callaway professor emeritus at the University of Georgia School of Law, to the DCNF.
Trump’s team is cognizant of this fact and has invoked his criminal proceedings in other jurisdictions to seek later trial dates, according to an Aug. 17 filing by Trump’s attorneys at the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, opposing the special counsel’s proposed trial date. “President Trump must prepare for each of these trials in the coming months. All are independently complex and will require substantial work to defend … these cases will include numerous pre-and-post trial hearings,” they wrote.
The most immediate of these matters concern the removal of state court cases to federal court, which some of Trump’s co-defendants, such as former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, have petitioned to do. While a federal judge rejected his attempt to remove his case in New York, experts believe that Trump is likely to do so in Georgia.
“There will be multiple motions to remove the Georgia case to federal court for defendants like Trump and Meadows,” said Turley. Carlson said that the likelihood of a removal petition by even one defendant — given that Wills has vowed to prosecute all defendants together — means that pre-trial proceedings in that case “could take up to a year.” These motions create an “ample opportunity for him to delay the trial,” Carlson claimed.
For these reasons, it is unlikely that Trump will face a jury in any of his cases before voters cast their ballots on Nov. 5, 2024. Over 60% of Americans, including 89% of all Democrats, want Trump’s trials to be held before the election, according to an Ipsos poll released on Friday.