Trump's election interference trial set for March 4 is postponed pending decision on immunity

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WASHINGTON – A federal judge canceled Donald Trump's March 4 trial date on charges he conspired to overturn the 2020 election while awaiting an appeals decision on whether he is immune from the charges.

In the brief order Friday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan vacated her order setting a schedule for questioning potential jurors in the case and said she would set a new date after decisions by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and potentially the Supreme Court.

The delay could have a ripple effect on other cases pending against the former president. The change in Washington makes it likely that Trump's first criminal trail will be in New York, where he is charged with falsifying business records in a scheme to pay hush money to an adult film star and a former Playboy model. That trial tentatively set for March 25.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has said the judge was waiting to see what happened in other jurisdictions. He said in December he would have a better idea of the schedule after the next hearing in the case Feb. 15.

Chutkan set the tentative trial date in August, weeks after the former president was indicted on three conspiracy charges and one obstruction charge. But Trump's claim of immunity muddied the waters.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering his argument and the decision has no deadline, but could come at any time.

Whatever the decision, the case is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court, which could take weeks or months longer to decide.

Former US President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower for Manhattan federal court to attend his defamation trial in New York on January 26, 2024. Lawyers in the trial are expected to give their closing arguments. Writer E. Jean Carroll is seeking more than $10 million in damages for defamation by Trump in a federal court in New York, which has the power only to impose a civil penalty, not a criminal conviction.

Delay stems from fight over whether Trump is immune to charges

Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, has sought to delay four criminal cases until after the election. He has also argued he is immune to the federal election charges because he was president when the alleged criminality took place.

Chutkan had tried to stick to her schedule. But other issues must also be debated before trial, such as what evidence might be excluded and what questions will be asked of potential jurors.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, former President Donald Trump and special counsel Jack Smith.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, former President Donald Trump and special counsel Jack Smith.

How does the delay in one of Trump's trials affect the others?

The delay in the federal trial, which is expected to last six weeks, could have a domino effect on the other criminal cases pending against Trump.

The delay might provide an opening for a New York trial on 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments before the 2016 election. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

New York Justice Juan Merchan tentatively set the trial to start March 25. A hearing is scheduled Feb. 15.

In December, Bragg declined to predict the timing of the case. He said the judge was right to wait to see what happened in other jurisdictions.

"We have not forgotten about it," Bragg said. "We are at the ready with our team that's got more than 100 years of experience working."

Trump's lawyer in the case, Susan Necheles, didn't immediately responded to a request for comment about the trial date.

Depending on the length of the Washington trial’s delay, and when the New York trial is held, Trump’s federal trial in Florida on charges he hoarded national security documents after leaving the White House could also be postponed.

The documents trial is tentatively scheduled May 20. But prosecutors and defense lawyers are still arguing about how to handle classified documents in that case.

A Georgia trial on charges Trump and others conspired to interfere with the 2020 election hasn’t been scheduled yet.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has asked for an Aug. 5 trial date. But that would mean the expected five month trial could overlap with the election.

Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee hasn’t set a date yet.

After one of Trump’s co-defendants, Mike Roman, complained about Willis’ relationship with one of her prosecutors, McAfee set a hearing Feb. 15 to determine whether the accusation will upend the prosecution of the case. Willis is set to file a written response to the charges Friday.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump's fed trial on election interference postponed from March