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Problem: Donald Trump Could Be On Trial During Critical GOP Iowa Caucuses

Donald Trump will have to spend much of January in Washington or perhaps take weekend breaks from his criminal trial to visit Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early primary states.

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. By Gage Skidmore.
Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.

Donald Trump Has a New Problem: For most criminal defendants, it’s not an issue that the timing of when their trial might take place might conflict with the presidential primary calendar- or with that person’s other scheduled trials

But Donald Trump, of course, is not like most criminal defendants. 

On Thursday, Special Counsel Jack Smith proposed that Donald Trump’s trial in the election interference case begin on January 2, 2024. That would put that trial prior to the other federal prosecution of Trump — in the documents case — as well as his trial in the New York case. It would also mean the Donald Trump trial would be in progress at the time of the Iowa caucuses, which are set for January 15. 

Therefore, Donald Trump will have to spend much of January in Washington or perhaps take weekend breaks from his criminal trial to visit Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early primary states. And with the trial expected to take six weeks, Trump will at the very least be distracted heading into the Super Tuesday primaries in March of 2024. 

“A January 2 trial date would vindicate the public’s strong interest in a speedy trial,” prosecutors wrote in a filing this week. “It is difficult to imagine a public interest stronger than the one in this case in which the defendant – the former president of the United States – is charged with three criminal conspiracies.”

Can Donald Trump Get the Dates Changed? 

The Special Counsel’s filing lays out a schedule that includes a final pretrial conference on December 8, jury selection starting on December 11, and a trial date of January 2. 

This is merely a request from the prosecutors, and it does not mean that the judge in the case will agree to begin the trial then. The sides are expected to argue in court on Friday about the dates. 

The Donald Trump side, it’s clear, is not in favor of such a timetable

“Deranged Jack Smith has just asked for a trial on the Biden Indictment to take place on January 2nd., just ahead of the important Iowa Caucuses,” Trump said on Truth Social Friday. “Only an out of touch lunatic would ask for such a date, ONE DAY into the New Year,  and maximum Election Interference with IOWA! 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. The same with other Fake Biden Indictments. ELECTION INTERFERENCE!”

CNN, in an analysis, described the argument as “an irreconcilable clash between campaign politics and justice.” The discovery progress is not expected to be as onerous as in the documents case, which under this scenario would take place later. 

“While the law does not conform to the professional or political needs of the accused, Smith’s preferred date – which would also be a full three years after Trump’s attempts to thwart Joe Biden’s 2020 victory – will fuel claims by Trump’s supporters that the indictments against him so far represent a politically motivated attempt to prevent him from recapturing the White House,” the CNN analysis says. 

CNN added that it is “unlikely” that the judge in the case will agree to Smith’s preferred timetable. But it could still result in a relatively early trial, while Trump would prefer the trial (and his other pending trials) be delayed as long as possible. 

“I think it is a starting point and that the judge will probably accommodate the defendant in the case in terms of setting a trial date that is a little bit later,” Ryan Goodman, a former special counsel at the Defense Department, told CNN. “Maybe it gets pushed back a month or two.”

As of now, Trump’s New York trial is set for next March, with a May start eyed for his trial in the documents case. All of the trials raise the possibility that Trump could be convicted of a crime prior to Election Day. 

Author Expertise and Experience

Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

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Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

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