Judge Hands Trump a Win in DC Election Case
Judge Hands Trump a Win in DC Election Case

By Jack Phillips

A federal judge in Washington partially granted a request by former President Donald Trump’s attorneys to allow for extra time to file motions in the federal election obstruction case ahead of his March 2024 trial.

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan issued the order on Oct. 6, representing as a partial win for the Trump legal team. In court papers filed last week with the court, they had wanted additional time to craft arguments in the case, which was brought by special counsel Jack Smith.

The judge granted President Trump some additional time to file motions, although she mostly rejected his lawyer’s requests to delay the trial deadlines. In her order, she rejected the former president’s request to order a declassified version of some of the government’s court filings regarding classified evidence.

“Lengthy deadline extensions for the defense’s anticipated dispositive motions—like motions to dismiss—are not warranted,” her order said. “If the court were to extend the briefing schedule for these motions by the requested sixty days, they would not be fully briefed until January 2024.”

Although the former president requested a 60-day extension to file pre-trial court motions, Judge Chutkan only allowed a two-week extension. Motions to dismiss the case and several other types of motions have to be filed by Oct. 23. The judge also granted a request from the Trump legal team to file objections regarding classified evidence in the case.

It came days after President Trump’s lawyers wrote in court papers that more time is needed to consider procedures for reviewing classified evidence in the case, adding his team is “seeking a fair opportunity for reasonable adversary proceedings” regarding the materials. They said that lawyers were able to review classified evidence that was provided by Mr. Smith’s office for the first time on Tuesday, but it was too short.

“Our review was brief and preliminary,” the motion stated. “But it it is clear that President Trump is entitled to additional materials possessed by the U.S. intelligence community” and other portions of the executive branch.

Several members of the Trump legal team don’t have the appropriate security clearances to review the evidence, it also said.

“Third, as noted above, in light of restrictions on one of the central documents in the classified discovery, we are presently foreclosed from making applications to the Special Counsel’s Office or the Court relating to the substance of the document,” his lawyers wrote. “Thus, although we anticipate transmitting discovery requests and motions to compel, we are not in a position to pursue those mechanisms as of this filing.”

Special counsel Jack Smith arrives to remarks on a recently unsealed indictment including four felony counts against former U.S. President Donald Trump on August 1, 2023 in Washington, DC. Trump was indicted on four felony counts for his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Responding to the former president’s motion, federal prosecutors said it was an attempt to “delay the proceedings” and claimed the amount of classified materials in the case was relatively small. His team also failed “to provide a basis for any extension” regarding pre-trial motions in the case, prosecutors said.

President Trump is charged with four federal felonies in the case alleging that he tried to obstruct the 2020 presidential election. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and said it’s part of a longstanding effort by Democrats and federal bureaucrats to imperil his 2024 presidential campaign.

Last week, President Trump’s team filed a motion that sought the dismissal of the case, citing what they described as immunity. Judge Chutkan has not ruled on that dismissal motion, and the special counsel lawyers have not responded.

“Where, as here, the president’s actions are within the ambit of his office, he is absolutely immune from prosecution,” his lawyers said, alleging that President Joe Biden’s administration was “breaking 234 years of precedent” with the charges against him.

“The incumbent administration has charged President Trump for acts that lie not just within the ‘outer perimeter,’ but at the heart of his official responsibilities as president. In doing so, the prosecution does not, and cannot, argue that President Trump’s efforts to ensure election integrity, and to advocate for the same, were outside the scope of his duties,” the filing said.

Last month, Judge Chutkan denied a request from President Trump that she recuse herself from the case over public comments she made as she sentenced people for actions related to the Jan. 6, 2021, breach at the U.S. Capitol building. His lawyers said that she made remarks that suggested that he be imprisoned or prosecuted, which, they argued, would mean she has a bias against the former president and shouldn’t preside over the case.

“Judge Chutkan has, in connection with other cases, suggested that President Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned,” his lawyers said.

But the judge, an Obama appointee, wrote that she reviewed his motion and determined there was no basis for her recusal. Her public comments “certainly do not manifest a deep-seated prejudice that would make fair judgment impossible,” she said.

The next court hearing in election case is slated for Oct. 16. President Trump also faces trials in Georgia, New York City, and Florida, and has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

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