Trump lawyers seek to delay trial over attempt to overturn election results to 2026

Special Counsel Jack Smith is seeking a date in January 2024 to proceed, but the former president’s legal team have demanded more time due to the complexity of the case

Donald Trump
Donald Trump, on August 3 at the Ronald Reagan airport in Washington, after appearing in court.AMANDA ANDRADE-RHOADES (REUTERS)
Miguel Jiménez

Among the defense tactics being employed by Donald Trump is to throw spanners into the wheels of the judicial process in an attempt to delay the proceedings. The former president’s lawyers have pulled out the manual and, arguing the complexity of the case, have requested that the federal trial for Trump’s alleged attempt to overturn outcome of the 2020 presidential election be held in April 2026, 18 months after the 2024 ballot to elect the next occupant of the White House.

Special Counsel Jack Smith, appointed by the Justice Department to oversee the case, had proposed the first week of January as a date to begin jury selection and set the trial in motion. The case in Washington, which was Trump’s third indictment of the year (a fourth arrived this week in which he is charged with electoral interference in the state of Georgia), the prosecutor referred to six other unidentified co-conspirators but elected to only pursue Trump to expedite the process.

The indictment charges Trump with four crimes: witness tampering, conspiracy to defraud the United States, efforts to obstruct the vote certification proceedings and conspiracy to violate civil rights. Trump claims the 2020 election was stolen from him. The prosecutor is not charging him for those unsubstantiated claims, but for the actions he undertook to alter the outcome and prevent Joe Biden’s victory from being declared.

It will be up to Judge Tanya S. Chutkan to decide the timetable, once the petitions of the two parties have been analyzed. Trump’s lawyers have a compelling argument to reject such a speedy expedition of the process, as proposed by the special counsel. In the brief in which they request a trial date for 2026, they underline the complexity of the case and the enormous volume of documents in the indictment, to which they still do not have access.

According to Trump’s legal team, the case materials occupy 8.5 terabytes of information totaling 11.5 million pages. If stacked, they note, these would form a 5,000-foot-high (around 1,500 meters) tower of paper. The brief even includes a graph showing that the height of the paperwork would stand at more than 15 times that of the Statue of Liberty in New York, and more than eight times that of the Washington Monument, the tallest building in the federal capital, “with nearly a million pages to spare.”

The lawyers add that they had been downloading the documentation for two days after receiving the link and still had not finished. “Even assuming we could begin reviewing the documents today, we would need to proceed at a pace of 99,762 pages per day to finish the government’s initial production by its proposed date for jury selection. That is the entirety of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, cover to cover, 78 times a day, every day, from now until jury selection,” they stated.

In addition to the printed text, the brief adds, there are “audio recordings, image files from phones and electronic devices, and other materials that will require extensive and laborious review.”

Trump’s lawyers argue that it is customary to establish a trial calendar proportional to the size and scope of the indictment and the complexity of the case. “The government rejects this sensible approach. Instead, it seeks a trial schedule faster than most undocumented misdemeanors, requesting only four months from the start of discovery to jury selection. The government’s goal is clear: to deny Trump and his counsel the ability to prepare for trial.”

Trump’s packed agenda

Instead, Trump’s lawyers propose a detailed timeline of more than two and a half years of procedural steps that will not impact on the final stretch of the 2024 presidential election campaign, with the former president the current frontrunner to secure the Republican Party nomination. That alternative timetable would lead to a trial in April 2026.

The lawyers also pointed to packed agenda of the former president, who faces multiple charges and lawsuits, to defend their schedule against the one proposed by the prosecutor. Trump is currently facing two civil cases, one in the New York state court, scheduled for a six-week trial beginning October 2, 2023, and another in the Southern District of New York, scheduled for a two-week trial beginning January 15, 2024.

Then, according to the current timetable, would come a trial for allegedly falsifying business accounts during the 2016 presidential election campaign involving hush money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels over an alleged extra-marital affair. This forms the basis of the first criminal case for which Trump was indicted and he is scheduled to appear before a New York state court for a five-week trial starting on March 25, 2024.

On the hypothetical schedule, next up would be the criminal case Trump faces in Georgia for attempting to alter the 2020 election results in that state. The former president was indicted over those allegations this week and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has requested a trial date of March 4, 2024, although the date has not yet been set by the judge.

The criminal case for crimes against the Espionage Act and obstruction of justice for illegally retaining classified material at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida following his departure from the White House has a a five-week trial scheduled in the Southern District of Florida starting on May 20, 2024.

On top of Trump’s judicial calendar is his political one, to which his lawyers have made no reference. The Republican Party primaries begin on January 15 and will run through the first half of 2024, culminating in the party convention in July that will anoint a presidential nominee. The election for the White House will take place on November 5, 2024, with the inauguration of the victor on January 20, 2025. Should Trump be elected to a second term, he could either appoint a like-minded prosecutor to dismiss the federal charges, or apply the power of presidential pardon to himself.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

Tu suscripción se está usando en otro dispositivo

¿Quieres añadir otro usuario a tu suscripción?

Si continúas leyendo en este dispositivo, no se podrá leer en el otro.

¿Por qué estás viendo esto?


Tu suscripción se está usando en otro dispositivo y solo puedes acceder a EL PAÍS desde un dispositivo a la vez.

Si quieres compartir tu cuenta, cambia tu suscripción a la modalidad Premium, así podrás añadir otro usuario. Cada uno accederá con su propia cuenta de email, lo que os permitirá personalizar vuestra experiencia en EL PAÍS.

En el caso de no saber quién está usando tu cuenta, te recomendamos cambiar tu contraseña aquí.

Si decides continuar compartiendo tu cuenta, este mensaje se mostrará en tu dispositivo y en el de la otra persona que está usando tu cuenta de forma indefinida, afectando a tu experiencia de lectura. Puedes consultar aquí los términos y condiciones de la suscripción digital.

More information

Archived In

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS