The former president’s attacks could speed up criminal trials

Former U.S. President and Republican Party candidate Donald Trump delivers the keynote speech at a Republican Party fundraiser in Columbia, South Carolina, August 5, 2023.

Sam Wolfe | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump has stepped up his rhetoric and vowed to continue to fight his criminal charges as he campaigns for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

But the war of words in the court of public opinion may backfire on him in the actual courtrooms where judges will soon set his trial.

Trump has targeted judges, prosecutors and potential witnesses in posts critical of four active criminal cases, prompting some legal experts to predict that a gag order may be in Trump’s future.

But even if that doesn’t happen, his aggressive criticism may prompt judges to judge his cases more quickly. That would be a blow to Trump, who has argued that his trials should be postponed until after the November 2024 presidential election.

“I don’t think any judge wants to get into a spat with a defendant,” Richard Serafini, a former top prosecutor in the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in an interview Thursday.

“The best way for a judge to influence pretrial comments to be silenced is to make them irrelevant by setting a quick trial date,” Serafini said.

Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the federal case accusing Trump of trying to overturn his 2020 election loss, recently said he would be willing to do just that.

“The more inflammatory statements a party makes about this case that could taint the jury or intimidate potential witnesses, the more urgent it will be that we proceed with the trial quickly to ensure we have an impartial jury,” Chutkan said last week.

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“I’m warning all of you and your client, so be extra careful in your public statements about this case,” Chutkan added. “I will take all necessary measures to protect the integrity of these processes.”

The judge’s warning came at the end of a hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that set the boundaries of an order limiting the evidence that can be released to the public in an election meddling case.

Trump, who claims the 91 felony charges against him are part of a conspiracy aimed at disrupting his 2024 campaign, argued that Chutka’s protective order was intended to stifle his free speech. The protective order did not address Trump’s rhetoric.

In a recent election campaign, he vowed not to be silent. “I’m going to talk about it, I’m going to talk about it. They’re not taking away my First Amendment rights,” Trump said.

And he seems committed to keeping that promise. Responding to the latest indictment in Georgia, Trump announced that he would personally release the “report” containing allegations of election fraud at a press conference next week.

ABC News informed Earlier Thursday, Trump’s legal advisers urged him to rescind the measure, saying it would “complicate” his legal problems. A spokesman for the Trump campaign, which reportedly helped prepare the fraud report, did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Special counsel Jack Smith has called Chutkan to trial in the D.C. case on January 2. Trump has reacted strongly to the proposal, which would see him impeached shortly before Iowa’s first-ever caucuses.

“Only an out of touch lunatic would ask for such a date, NEW YEAR’S DAY, and maximum Election interference with IOWA!” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “A lawsuit like this should never happen because of my First Amendment rights and the massive Biden CORRUPTION that should only happen AFTER THE ELECTION.”

Trump’s lawyers were expected to propose an alternative date by Thursday. Smith proposed that a trial date be set for August 28, the day the parties meet for a status conference.

Meanwhile, Atlanta District Attorney Fanny Willis said this week that her case against Trump in Georgia is scheduled for trial on March 4.

Two of Trump’s criminal cases are already set to go to trial in the middle of the 2024 election cycle.

A federal trial over Trump’s mishandling of classified documents will begin in May — two months after a scheduled New York trial on charges of falsifying business records related to a hush-hush payment to a porn star.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges in his two federal cases and a New York criminal case. Willis suggested that Trump and his 19 other co-defendants on state-level election meddling charges go to trial early next month.

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