Trump asks for pause in 2020 election case, throwing trial date into question

December 8, 2023

Donald Trump has asked for a pause in his D.C. criminal case, placing Jack Smith's pursuit of a speedy criminal conviction in jeopardy. 

Trump is appealing a ruling from Judge Tanya Chutkan, who rejected Trump's request to dismiss the charges on constitutional grounds.

Depending on how long the appeals process takes, it's possible that Trump won't go to trial until after the 2024 election.

Trump PAUSE

This all has to do with the unprecedented nature of the case and the novel issues raised by prosecuting an American president.

Those questions could win Trump an audience with the Supreme Court and delay his trial indefinitely.

Trump's lawyers argue that the charges should be dismissed on grounds of presidential immunity. Presidents are understood to enjoy civil liability, but Trump's lawyers say the same should apply in criminal cases.

Of course, Trump is the first American president ever charged with a crime - so we're in uncharted waters.

Smith accuses Trump of a criminal plot to overturn the 2020 election, but Trump's lawyers say his conduct fell within Trump's duty to take care that the laws - the election laws in this case - were faithfully executed.

Trump has also made a double jeopardy argument, pointing to the Senate's acquittal on charges of "insurrection" in 2021.

Trial delayed...

But in an unusually florid ruling last week, Judge Tanya Chutkan dismissed Trump's claims and accused him of invoking the divine right of kings.

Trump has already appealed Chutkan's ruling, raising the possibility that his March trial date will be delayed.

In the meantime, Trump's lawyers have asked her to relinquish control of the trial while the appeal plays out on the immunity issue.

"The filing of President Trump’s notice of appeal has deprived this Court of jurisdiction over this case in its entirety pending resolution of the appeal," they wrote.

Smith has pushed for a quick trial, accusing Trump of trying to delay "justice" with procedural maneuvering.

But Trump says the prosecution is a witch hunt with the goal of interfering with his campaign and, ultimately, America's democracy.

Smith has not charged Trump with insurrection, but he nevertheless plans to accuse Trump at trial of fomenting the Capitol riot. Trump's team says Smith is trying to taint the trial by accusing Trump of things the indictment doesn't mention.

A federal appeals court upheld Smith's gag order on Friday but narrowed its scope to allow Trump to target Smith directly.

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