Ex-president’s assaults may expedite criminal trials

Former U.S. President and Republican candidate Donald Trump delivers a keynote speech at a Republican fundraising dinner in Columbia, South Carolina, on August 5, 2023.

Image: Sam Wolfe | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump has intensified his rhetoric and pledged to continue speaking out against his criminal indictments as he seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

However, his verbal battle in the court of public opinion may have unintended consequences in the actual courtrooms, where judges will soon determine his trial dates.

Trump’s posts targeting judges, prosecutors, and potential witnesses in relation to his four ongoing criminal cases have led some legal experts to anticipate the imposition of a gag order on Trump.

Even if a gag order is not issued, Trump’s aggressive criticism could motivate judges to accelerate the trials. This would be detrimental to Trump, who has argued for a postponement until after the November 2024 presidential election.

“I don’t believe any judge wants to engage in a verbal dispute with a defendant,” said Richard Serafini, a former senior trial attorney for the Department of Justice’s criminal division, in a recent interview.

“The most effective way for a judge to neutralize pretrial comments is to render them irrelevant by scheduling a speedy trial,” Serafini added.

Judge Tanya Chutkan, presiding over the federal case accusing Trump of attempting to undermine the 2020 election results, recently hinted at her willingness to expedite the process.

“The more inflammatory statements a party makes about this case, potentially tainting the jury pool or intimidating witnesses, the greater the urgency will be for us to proceed swiftly to trial and ensure the selection of an impartial jury,” stated Chutkan last week.

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“I urge all of you and your client to exercise caution in your public statements regarding this case,” Chutkan cautioned. “I will take any necessary measures to protect the integrity of these proceedings.”

The judge’s warning came at the conclusion of a hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., which defined the scope of an order restricting the disclosure of evidence in the election interference case.

Trump, who maintains that the 91 felony charges against him are part of a conspiracy to derail his 2024 campaign, argued that Chutkan’s protective order was an attempt to suppress his freedom of speech. However, the protective order did not address Trump’s rhetoric.

During a recent campaign event, he declared that he would not remain silent. “I will speak about it, I will. They cannot infringe upon my First Amendment rights,” insisted Trump.

And it seems he intends to uphold that promise. Following his latest indictment in Georgia, Trump announced that he will personally unveil a “report” detailing allegations of election fraud at an upcoming press conference.

ABC News reported earlier on Thursday that Trump’s own legal advisers have urged him to cancel the event, expressing concerns that it may “complicate” his legal issues. However, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, who allegedly assisted in preparing the fraud report, declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.

Special Counsel Jack Smith has requested that Chutkan schedule the D.C. trial for January 2. Trump strongly criticized this proposal, as it would mean standing trial just before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.

“Only someone out of touch and deranged would propose such a date, ONE DAY into the New Year, with maximum Election Interference in IOWA!” Trump posted on Truth Social. “This trial, which should never take place due to my First Amendment Rights and extensive BIDEN CORRUPTION, should only happen, if at all, AFTER THE ELECTION.”

It was expected that Trump’s attorneys would propose an alternative date by Thursday. Meanwhile, Smith suggested that a trial date be determined during the status conference scheduled for August 28.

Additionally, District Attorney Fani Willis, in the Atlanta area, declared that the trial for her Georgia case against Trump should commence on March 4.

Two of Trump’s criminal cases are already slated to go to trial during the 2024 election cycle. The federal trial for Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents is set to begin in May, two months after the scheduled start of his New York trial on charges of falsifying business records related to a hush money payment to a porn star.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in both his federal cases and the criminal case in New York. Willis has indicated that Trump, along with the 19 other defendants in her state-level election interference case, should be arraigned in early next month.


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