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Trump Jan. 6 trial to begin March 4, amid GOP primaries

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The federal judge presiding over Special Counsel Jack Smith’s case against former President Trump alleging interference in the 2020 presidential election set the trial date for March 4, 2024–right in the middle of the GOP presidential primary calendar. 

Trump is the first former president in United States history to face criminal charges.

But a criminal trial against a former president who is also a candidate with a commanding lead over the GOP presidential field being set in the middle of the primary cycle is unprecedented.

Smith and the government had initially proposed the trial begin on Jan. 2, 2024, suggesting it would last approximately four to six weeks. But that date would fall right at the start of the Republican presidential primaries—just weeks before the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary.

Former President Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump takes the stage during an organizing event at Fervent Calvary Chapel on July 8, 2023, in Las Vegas.  ((Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images))

Trump’s defense team proposed, instead, that the trial begin in April 2026— long after the results of the 2024 presidential election.

The judge said neither date was acceptable.

Special Counsel Jack Smith

Jack Smith, US special counsel, speaks during a news conference in Washington, DC, US, on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Smith was investigating whether Trump was involved in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, and any alleged interference in the 2020 election result.

On Aug. 1, Trump was indicted on four federal charges out of Smith’s Jan. 6 probe.

Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges, which included conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding; and conspiracy against rights.

A court sketch of Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump sits between his attorneys Todd Blanche and John Lauro as he faces charges before Magistrate Judge Moxila A. Upadhyaya that he orchestrated a plot to try to overturn his 2020 election loss, at federal court in Washington, U.S. August 3, 2023 in a courtroom sketch. At far left is Special Counsel Jack Smith.  (REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg)

Separately, Trump pleaded not guilty to all 37 felony charges out of Smith’s classified records probe. The charges include willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice and false statements.

Last month, on July 27, Trump was charged with an additional three counts as part of a superseding indictment out of Smith’s investigation — an additional count of willful retention of national defense information and two additional obstruction counts.

A federal judge in Florida has scheduled a trial date for May 20, 2024. 

President Biden is also under special counsel investigation for his alleged improper retention of classified records. The status of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s probe is unclear. 

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