Washington: Former US President Donald Trump’s federal trial set for March 4 on charges of election interference has been postponed — confirmed after it was dropped off the Washinton DC District Court’s calendar — as an appeals court has to dispose of his claim of immunity from the charges.
Trump’s March 4 trial date on federal charges that he conspired to overturn the 2020 election has disappeared from the district court’s calendar, confirming that his fight over whether he is immune to the charges will delay the case, media reports said.
The delay could have a domino effect on other cases pending against the former President.
Trump, as it stands today, will first face criminal trial in New York, where he is charged with falsifying business records on a scheme to pay hush money to an adult film star and a former Playboy model. That trial’s tentatively set for March 25.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has said that the judge was waiting to see what was happening in other jurisdictions. He said he would have a better idea of the schedule after the next hearing in the case on February 15.
In the federal case in Washington, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan set the tentative trial date in August, weeks after the former President was indicted on three conspiracy charges and one obstruction charge. But the case has dropped off the court’s calendar and hasn’t been rescheduled before the November election. Chutkan hasn’t explained the change in the court docket, USA TODAY reported.
The trial dropping off the schedule appears to result from the legal wrangle over whether Trump is immune to charges as he has invoked executive privilege not to testify in a court on grounds of having been the President of the US.
Trump, the front-runner in Republican presidential nominations, has sought to delay four criminal cases until after the election. He has also argued he is immune to the federal election charges because he was President when the alleged criminality took place.
The Washington DC Circuit Court of Appeals is considering his argument and its decision has no deadline, so it does not appear to be time-bound but could come at any time. Whatever the decision, the case is likely to go to the US Supreme Court, which could take weeks or months longer to decide.
Chutkan had sought to stick to her schedule. But other issues must also be debated before trial, such as what evidence might be excluded and what questions will be asked of potential jurors. She had said that postponing those decisions “will not serve the interests of justice”.
The delay might provide an opening for a New York trial on 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments before the 2016 election. Trump has pleaded not guilty.
New York Justice Juan Merchan tentatively set the trial to start on March 25. A hearing is scheduled for February 15.
When the New York trial is held, Trump’s federal trial in Florida on charges he hoarded national security documents after leaving the White House could also be postponed. The documents trial is tentatively scheduled for May 20. But prosecutors and defence lawyers are in a legal tussle over how to handle classified documents in that case.
A Georgia trial on charges that Trump and others conspired to interfere with the 2020 election hasn’t been scheduled yet. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has asked for an August 5 trial date but that would mean the expected five-month trial could overlap with the election. Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee hasn’t set a date yet.