Trump continues to consider indictments. His attacks could precipitate criminal trials


Former US President and Republican nominee Donald Trump delivers a keynote address at a Republican fundraising dinner in Columbia, South Carolina, August 5, 2023.

Sam Wolf | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump has stepped up his rhetoric and vowed to continue speaking out in opposition to the criminal indictments against him as he campaigns for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

But his war of words in the court of public opinion may backfire in actual courtrooms, where judges will soon set his trial dates.

Trump has targeted judges, prosecutors and potential witnesses with posts attacking his four active criminal cases, leading some legal experts to speculate that a gag order may be in Trump’s future.

But even if it doesn’t, his blistering criticism may spur judges to bring his cases to trial more quickly. It would be a blow to Trump, who has argued that his trials should be delayed until after the November 2024 presidential election.

“I don’t think any judge would want to engage in a spitting contest with a defendant,” Richard Serafini, a former prosecuting attorney for the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in an interview Thursday.

“The best way for a judge to effect the silencing of pre-trial comments is to make them irrelevant to a speedy trial date,” Serafini said.

Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the federal case that accuses Trump of trying to sabotage his loss in the 2020 election, recently indicated she would be willing to do so.

“The more sensational statements a party makes about this case that could tarnish the jury or intimidate potential witnesses, the greater the need for the trial to move forward quickly to ensure a jury pool from which we can choose an impartial jury,” Chutkan said last week.

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“I warn all of you and your client, therefore, to take special care in your public statements on this issue,” added Chutkan. I will take the necessary measures to preserve the integrity of these proceedings.”

The judge’s warning came at the end of a hearing in the US District Court in Washington, D.C., which set the limits of an order limiting evidence that can be publicly disclosed in the election interference case.

Trump, who maintains that the 91 counts in total counts against him are part of a plot to derail his 2024 campaign, claimed that the Chutkan protection order was intended to stifle free speech. The protective order did not address Trump’s speech.

On his last campaign stop, he promised not to be silent. “I’m going to talk about it, and I will. They’re not properly pulling my First Amendment,” Trump said.

And he seems committed to keeping that promise. In response to the recent Georgia indictment, Trump announced that he would personally reveal a “report” containing allegations of election fraud at a news conference next week.

hv news mentioned Earlier Thursday, Trump’s legal advisers urged him to cancel that event, telling him it would “complicate” his legal troubles. A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, who was said to have helped prepare the fraud report, did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Special counsel Jack Smith asked Chutkan to bring the Washington, D.C. case to trial on January 2nd. Trump reacted harshly to the proposal, which would put him on trial before Iowa’s first caucus.

“Only a crazy madman would ask for such a date, one day in the new year, maximum interference in the election with IOWA!” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “Such a trial, which should never happen because of my First Amendment rights, and Biden’s massive corruption, should only happen, if at all, after the election.”

Trump’s lawyers had been expected to propose an alternate date by Thursday. Smith suggested that the trial date be set for August 28, the day the two parties were scheduled to meet for a case conference.

Meanwhile, Atlanta District Attorney Fanny Willis said this week that her case against Trump in Georgia should go to trial on March 4.

Two of Trump’s criminal cases are already scheduled to go to trial in the midst of the 2024 election cycle.

A federal trial over Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents is set to begin in May — two months after his New York trial on charges of falsifying business records related to hush money payments to a porn star is scheduled to open.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges in two federal cases and a New York criminal case. Willis suggested that Trump and the 19 other defendants in the election interference case go to trial at the state level early next month.

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