Donald Trump’s four criminal trials can seem dizzying, including both federal and state cases, across Florida, Georgia, New York and Washington. But it’s worth remembering that the cases have different timetables. And any case that might produce a verdict before Election Day is probably more important than the others.
The cases that don’t reach a verdict before November may become moot if Trump wins the 2024 presidential election. As president, he could try to end the two federal cases, while many legal scholars believe that the Constitution prevents state prosecutors from pursuing charges against a sitting president.
This reality explains why Trump’s defense strategy revolves around delaying the cases. Any case he can push into 2025 may be irrelevant, at least for another four years.
Today in Washington, an appeals court will hear an argument that will shape the timing of the case that seems to be furthest along: the federal trial involving Trump’s efforts to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election. Trump claims he is immune from prosecution because the charges stem from actions that he took while he was president. Adding to the drama, he has said that he will attend today’s argument in person.
“Today is a critical day for determining how Trump’s trials are likely to play out this year,” Alan Feuer, who has been covering the cases for The Times, told us.
Whether Trump is convicted of any crimes before Election Day could be a major factor in the 2024 race. A recent poll found that nearly a quarter of Trump’s supporters believe that he should not be the Republican nominee for president if he is found guilty of a crime. A conviction could also affect the general election. “In a close race, it might be decisive even if only a sliver of voters refuse to vote for a felon,” Nate Cohn, The Times’s chief political analyst, has written.
In the rest of today’s newsletter, we walk you through the timing of all four criminal cases.
1. Post-2020 interference
The case at issue in today’s hearing — the federal trial involving Trump’s actions after the 2020 election — had been set to begin in Washington on March 4, the day before Super Tuesday. That starting date is on hold while judges hear arguments on whether Trump is immune.
If Trump wins at the appeals court, the federal case against him may unravel. If he loses, he is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court. For Trump, even a drawn-out process that ends in defeat could effectively be a victory.
“The immunity battle, even if Trump loses on the substance of his arguments, could still determine whether the trial will be held before the election in November,” Alan and Maggie Haberman wrote last week in the Trump on Trial newsletter.
(Police officers were called to the homes of the judge overseeing Trump’s election interference case and the special counsel, Jack Smith, after separate false reports of shootings.)
2. Stormy Daniels
The other trial that now seems as if it could finish before the election is the case that accuses Trump of falsifying business records to cover up his alleged affair with Stormy Daniels. The trial is set to begin on March 25 and probably would last about a month. The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, has indicated that he may accept a later starting date if Trump’s federal trial involving the 2020 election moves ahead.
The judge overseeing the Manhattan trial plans to finalize the starting date on Feb. 15. “If it seems that the Jan. 6 trial will be delayed for months, he may well stick with the current schedule,” our colleague Jonah Bromwich, who is covering the case, said. “I think there’s about a 50 percent chance that the Manhattan trial goes forward as scheduled.”
3. Georgia interference
In addition to the federal charges related to Trump’s efforts to stay in power, he also faces state charges in Georgia. Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., chose to bring a sprawling racketeering case involving 19 defendants. The complexity is one reason the trial seems unlikely to finish this year.
4. Classified documents
Trump faces a federal trial in Florida in which prosecutors accuse him of taking sensitive government documents from the White House and obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them. It is scheduled to begin on May 20. But that date may change, and the case appears unlikely to end before November.
Trump is also involved in three noncriminal cases:
Last fall, a New York judge ruled that Trump had committed fraud by inflating his net worth. The judge will hear arguments about potential financial penalties this week.
Last May, a jury in New York concluded that Trump had sexually abused E. Jean Carroll, a writer, in the 1990s, and later defamed her. In September, a judge ruled that Trump had defamed Carroll in another instance, too; a civil trial to determine damages will begin next week.
Colorado and Maine have banned Trump’s name from the primary ballot this year, saying that his efforts to overturn the 2020 election amounted to insurrection. Trump has appealed the decisions, and the Supreme Court announced last week that it would hear the Colorado case on Feb. 8. A decision will likely apply to other states that try to ban him.
More on the 2024 election
Protesters calling for a cease-fire in Gaza interrupted President Biden’s speech at a church in Charleston, S.C. The audience responded with chants of “four more years,” and Biden praised the protesters’ “passion.”
Biden criticized Trump for saying “we have to get over” school shootings. “We have to stop it,” Biden said at the church, where a white supremacist gunman killed nine people in 2015.
Biden rebuked Nikki Haley, without naming her, for her remarks about the roots of the Civil War, saying, “Let me be clear, for those who don’t seem to know: Slavery was the cause.”
Mitch Landrieu, Biden’s infrastructure czar, is stepping down to help lead the president’s re-election campaign.
With Trump busy in court, his campaign has called on allies like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ben Carson to fill the gaps in Iowa.
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