A federal judge’s decision to set a March 4, 2024 trial date in former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election case could run the risk of violating his due process rights, legal experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Tanya Chutkan, an Obama appointee, set the trial for the day before Super Tuesday — a decision Trump decried in a Truth Social post that evening as “election interference,” and he promised to appeal. While legal experts said the date likely could not be appealed, they told the DCNF it puts the defense in a tough spot and may even interfere with the former president’s due process rights.
Prosecutors initially requested a January 2, 2024, trial date, while Trump’s legal team wanted to hold off until April 2026, claiming an earlier date would violate their client’s due process rights because it would not allow them time to adequately prepare.
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John Malcolm, vice president of the Heritage Foundation’s Institute for Constitutional Government and former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, highlighted the “millions of pages” of discovery material the legal team must examine and consult with Trump about prior to the trial.
“This is all happening, as the judge well knows, while Trump is running for president, facing three other indictments (one of which has also been set for trial in May), and several civil lawsuits,” he told the DCNF. “Donald Trump, like every other defendant in a criminal case, is entitled to due process and effective assistance of counsel, which includes having an adequate amount of time and opportunity to review the evidence and consult with his attorneys in a meaningful fashion.”
The date is not generally appealable prior to the trial, Malcolm added, but may be raised on appeal. “If he is convicted, one of the issues he could raise on appeal is that he was deprived of his right to due process and effective assistance of counsel because of the amount of discovery involved and the expedited trial schedule,” he told the DCNF.
During the hearing, Trump’s lawyers raised a similar argument. “Mr. Trump is entitled to a defense that is reasonably prepared; it would be a miscarriage of justice if they don’t get that kind of defense,” Trump attorney John Lauro said, pointing to the 12.8 million documents prosecutors said they turned over, according to The Hill.
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John Shu, an attorney and legal commentator who served in the George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations, told the DCNF the date may “impinge” on Trump’s rights, but would likely not be successfully appealed.
“While it is possible that the current March 4, 2024, trial date in former President Trump’s D.C. case impinges on his due process rights, it is unlikely that it creates an issue that would be successfully appealed, in and of itself, should he be convicted,” Shu said. “Generally speaking, district court judges have enormous discretion over their trial calendars and discovery disputes.”
However, Shu told the DCNF there were still various “questions of law and motion practice” that could postpone the trial date, though not as far back as April 2026, when Trump’s attorneys requested. Shu also pointed to the millions of discovery files Trump’s team was given by prosecutors. “Even if some of them are duplicative, it is still a colossal amount of documents for any defense team, let alone a small one, to properly review and analyze,” he said.
CNN legal analyst Elie Honig similarly said this week that the judge was cutting it “really close” by setting the March trial date. “[S]ome of the rationales that the DOJ had offered up that the judge agreed with, I think don’t cut it,” she said.
Trump was indicted by a grand jury in special counsel Jack Smith’s 2020 election probe and pleaded not guilty on August 3 to all four felony charges relating to his alleged attempt to overturn the 2020 election. He is also facing three other indictments in Florida, New York and Georgia.
A trial for Trump’s Georgia case, where he was indicted August 14 alongside 18 co-defendants for alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election in the state, has not yet been scheduled. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis first requested a March 4,2024, date, but more recently requested an Oct. 23, 2023, start date.
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