By Lawrence Wilson
Defense attorneys have accused U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith of intentionally hampering former President Donald Trump’s ability to conduct a presidential campaign and to effectively defend himself in two major criminal trials that could be held within weeks of one another.
At issue is the tight scheduling of two major trials, which President Trump’s defense attorneys say is being purposely engineered by Mr. Smith. The defense team asked U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon for the Southern District of Florida to intervene in court documents filed on Aug. 18.
Mr. Smith issued charges against President Trump in a Florida federal court related to alleged mishandling of classified documents. The trial for that case is set to begin on May 20, 2024, which was announced by Judge Cannon on July 31.
Charges are also pending against President Trump in federal court in Washington, related to alleged interference with the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Smith has asked U.S. District Judge Tanya Sue Chutkan for the District of Columbia, to begin that trial on Jan. 2, 2024.
That poses a conflict, defense lawyers argued, because preparation for both trials, which includes discovery, pre-trial motions, and jury selection, will overlap. For example, an evidentiary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 11 in the Florida case, and Mr. Smith has asked that jury selection for the Washington case begin in December.
In a letter to Judge Cannon, the attorneys wrote:
“Respectfully, the Special Counsel’s conduct necessitates appropriate action by Your Honor.
“In addition to blatantly ignoring this Court’s scheduled evidentiary hearing on December 11, 2023, the Special Counsel’s actions appear to be intentionally motivated to prevent President Trump from meaningfully preparing for either trial and to simultaneously prevent him from running a campaign for President of the United States,” they said.
“The Special Counsel’s strategy asking for a schedule in the D.C. Case that culminates in a proposed trial date of January 2, 2024, is not merely gamesmanship by a partisan Department of Justice, it is a miscarriage of justice.”
The defense team also asked Judge Chutkan to examine the matter.
Meanwhile, President Trump already faces a crowded legal and electoral calendar, including one, and possibly two, more criminal trials before the November 2024 election.
President Trump’s attorneys noted that a six-week trial is scheduled to begin in New York in October concerning President Trump’s alleged falsification of business documents in relation to hush payments made to an adult film star, while he is also immersed in a presidential campaign.
Beyond that, President Trump faces a number of scheduled or potentially scheduled conflicts.
Mr. Smith has requested that jury selection for the Washington case begin in December and the trial in January.
The political primary season begins with the Iowa Caucuses on Jan. 15, 2024, and continues through the spring.
Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis, has requested a trial date of March 14, 2024, related to the accusation that President Trump attempted to falsify the results of the 2020 presidential election in that state.
The Republican Party’s “Super Tuesday” is March 15, which will see primary contests in 15 states, including the convention delegate-rich states of Texas, California, and North Carolina.
The Florida documents trial is scheduled for May 2024.
The Republican nominating convention is slated for July 2024.
Attorney Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice, a conservative legal advocacy nonprofit, told The Epoch Times that the trial date in the Georgia case is unlikely to be approved.
“This is probably the most complicated—certainly not the strongest—but the most complicated [of the current Trump prosecutions] with all the defendants and the predicate acts [mentioned in the indictment],” he said in an interview.
“There are just so many details here. It’s just not going to happen, that it gets tried by March—unless the judge is completely deferential to Willis.”
“And one has to ask: What’s the huge rush?” Mr. Levey said, going on to question the motivation for the fast-tracked schedule.
“They’re less concerned with doing this in a thorough way to insulate it from successful appeal, than they are in making sure that the trials, and in their mind, hopefully the convictions, happen before the election.
“If you rush and you don’t satisfactorily deal with all the various pretrial motions, you certainly open yourself up for a successful appeal, but they don’t care because the appeal will be after the election,” Mr. Levey said.
President Trump has routinely claimed that the prosecutions against him amount to a “witch hunt.”
Many of the former president’s political allies have affirmed that narrative, calling the prosecutions politically motivated.
“Most Republicans believe that the law is used as a weapon against Donald Trump,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a CBS interview following the indictment in the Florida case.
An Associated Press poll released Aug. 16 showed that Americans are divided on the matter along party lines. Concerning the Washington and Georgia cases, which deal with the results of the 2020 election, more than 80 percent of Democrats characterized President Trump’s actions as illegal. Among Republicans, just 15 percent said he had acted against the law.
Matthew Vadum contributed to this report.