Judge in Trump’s 2020 election case delays March 4 trial date

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Washington — U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Friday officially tossed out the March 4 trial date in the federal case against former President Donald Trump related to the 2020 presidential election as higher courts consider his broad claim of immunity.

Chutkan’s brief order vacated the March 4 trial date she set last August. She said a new schedule will be set depending on the outcome of the pending dispute over whether Trump is shielded from federal prosecution.

Her decision to push back the date of the trial was expected, since the federal district court in Washington had removed the trial from its public calendar earlier this week. Trump faces four counts brought by special counsel Jack Smith related to an alleged effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. He has pleaded not guilty.

Chutkan rejected Trump’s claim of presidential immunity last year, writing in a December opinion that presidents do not enjoy a “lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass.” Trump appealed, and Chutkan paused all proceedings in the case.

A panel of three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments over whether Trump can be prosecuted for actions taken while he was in office last month and has yet to issue a decision.

Chutkan’s decision to scrap the trial date likely complicates the timeline in other jurisdictions where Trump faces charges. Smith is also prosecuting Trump on 40 counts in federal court in South Florida related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents. That trial is currently set for May 2024. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

More immediately, Chutkan’s ruling clears the way for a trial on state charges in New York, where Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Those charges relate to an alleged plot to make hush-money payments to suppress damaging information about Trump during the 2016 presidential election. He has pleaded not guilty to those state charges, and the trial in that case is scheduled to begin in late March.

Smith’s office declined to comment on Chutkan’s ruling Friday.

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