Americans are about to learn important new details about the timing and content of Donald Trump’s trials, as the former president and Republican lead candidate ramps up efforts to alchemize his unprecedented legal danger to advance his candidacy for the White House.
Two key hearings on Monday — one in Georgia and one in Washington — will bring the drama surrounding Trump’s quadruple criminal charges into a new phase, following the extraordinary scenes and political maneuvering that culminated in the release of Trump’s booking photo last week.
In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis will outline the first substantive arguments in evidence in one of the cases Trump will face in a hearing on former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ attempt to move his state case to federal court . Meadows and Trump, along with 17 other aides, former officials and attorneys, have been charged in a full-scale racketeering case alleging a wide-ranging conspiracy to alter the 2020 election result.
At the same time, Judge Tanya Chutkan will hold a status hearing in Washington to consider dueling arguments from Special Counsel Jack Smith and Trump’s defense team over the date of a trial in the federal investigation into Trump’s alleged attempt to block incumbent President Joe Biden from taking office. Smith wants the process to begin Jan. 2 — two weeks before Trump’s first major test in the 2024 primary race at the state’s first election assemblies in Iowa. The ex-president’s team has requested significantly more time and proposes a date in April 2026. Trump is not expected to attend the hearing.
The two hearings will shed light on critical aspects of Trump’s challenges as he undertakes the previously unthinkable feat of winning a major party presidential nomination and then the White House while standing trial in multiple criminal cases. Monday’s simultaneous hearings in two cities will provide a taste of the strain and resource consumption on Trump and his team over the next year, when the former president could spend as many crucial campaign moments in the courtroom as in states where the early voting took place . The two hearings also underscore the frightening legal predicament Trump faces: Even if he makes headway on one case, he could suffer serious setbacks on another, increasing the chances of a conviction before voters go to the polls in November 2024 .
The new legal maneuvers, which are just a foretaste of the extensive preliminary trials that will intensify in the coming months, will take place as Trump escalates his claims that he is being politically persecuted by the Biden administration.
No sooner had Trump left Atlanta after he surrendered Thursday in the Fulton County jail than his team began monetizing his mugshot. In appeals for donations over the weekend, Trump, who has often claimed nearly unlimited powers as president, said the Biden administration’s persecution was akin to the tyranny the United States had rejected in its struggle for independence.
The Trump campaign on Saturday claimed it had raised $7.1 million since the former president was booked Thursday. Any attempts to verify that number will have to await the release of the next round of quarterly fundraising accounts.
The drama surrounding the various trials will draw significant attention in the coming days, but as is often the case with Trump, the scale of the spectacle may obscure the unique gravity of the events. Trump is innocent until proven guilty and denies all of the 91 charges against him. But he’s also the first ex-president to face criminal charges — not to mention he’s also the leading candidate in his party’s nomination contest seeking another term that could potentially begin if he’s a convicted felon. And the main prosecution allegation in both the federal election subversion case and the Georgia case is that Trump has used his enormous power as president to attempt to deprive some Americans of a democracy’s most sacred privilege – their vote.
The hearing in Georgia, which could lead to important revelations, is not directly about Trump, but about Meadows. The former White House chief of staff wants his case moved from state court to federal court, where he may have a better chance of a dismissal on the grounds that his actions after the 2020 election fell within the scope of his duties as a federal official. Meadows and Trump are among 19 co-defendants in a large-scale racketeering case Willis built.
Georgian Foreign Minister Brad Raffensperger, who received the January 2021 call in which Trump urged him to “find” the votes to overturn the outgoing president’s defeat of Biden in the crucial swing state, and two other attorneys who were on the call participated, were subpoenaed to testify.
Monday’s hearing is expected to serve as a preview of a later attempt by Trump to take his own case to federal court, where he might hope for a more sympathetic jury. Extensive pre-trials in the Georgia case could also mean that Willis, who initially sought a hearing date in March 2024 to try the case before the 2024 election, could fail.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a staunch opponent of Trump in the Republican primary, told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday that Meadows may have reasons for his fall — but predicted it wouldn’t affect that would have final judgement.
“I think whether or not Mark Meadows wins this motion will not materially affect how a jury will ultimately be asked to make these decisions at the time of the trial,” Christie said. Some experts have also warned that regardless, the outcome of the Meadows case should not be taken as an inevitable foretaste of how the courts would respond to a similar request from Trump.
Democratic Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin, a member of the special committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol in the previously Democrat-led House of Representatives, said Sunday that Meadows, in his efforts to bring his case to federal court, could be unsuccessful. “There is no question that the state has the power to prosecute anyone who is a federal official or employee,” Raskin told CNN’s Dana Bash on State of the Union.
“You can only think of a federal agent who would commit a bank robbery or a murder, and of course the state would prosecute him,” Raskin argued. He added that the case would depend on whether Meadows “actually participated in the work of the federal government and acted in accordance with a federal policy.”
Earlier this month, Trump pleaded not guilty to four criminal charges related to his efforts to overturn the election, according to Smith’s state investigation. The case has already sparked considerable controversy. Chutkan has warned Trump that his First Amendment rights are not “absolute” and that his status as a defendant must take precedence over his activities as a presidential candidate. This followed fierce criticism from Trump — on social media and elsewhere — of both Smith and Chutkan.
The judge has also revealed that while she is known for diligently protecting the rights of the defendants, she wants to move the case forward, despite Trump’s team claiming the evidence is so extensive that it takes months or even years to prepare for the trial become.
Trump’s attorneys also argue that Smith’s proposed timeline for the trial would be at odds with other criminal and civil cases involving the former president. Trump has pleaded not guilty in a separate case Smith has filed in Florida — to his alleged misuse of national security secrets in the classified documents he hoarded at his resort in Mar-a-Lago — and in a business accounting case involving hush money payment to an adult film star who is due to stand trial in Manhattan next year.
Smith plans to begin jury selection in the federal election subversion case in December. If he gets his preferred hearing date, Jan. 2, the trial would begin just days before the third anniversary of Trump supporters’ mob attack on the Capitol.