Trump lawyer: Georgia trial would have to wait if Trump wins in 2024 – The Washington Post
ATLANTA — An attorney for former president Donald Trump told an Atlanta area judge Friday that if Trump wins the 2024 presidential election, his trial on charges that he illegally conspired to try to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia could not proceed until after he leaves the White House.
Steven Sadow, Trump’s lead counsel in the sprawling Fulton County racketeering case, objected to prosecutors requesting an August 2024 trial date. Sadow claimed that if Trump wins the Republican nomination and is required to be on trial in the weeks leading up to Election Day 2024, it would be “election interference.”
“Can you imagine the notion of the Republican nominee for president not being able to campaign for the presidency because he is in some form or fashion in a courtroom defending himself?” Sadow asked. “That would be the most effective election interference in the history of the United States, and I don’t think anyone would want to be in that position.”
Nathan Wade, a special prosecutor leading the case, strongly rejected Sadow’s claim.
“This trial does not constitute election interference. This is moving forward with the business of Fulton County,” Wade said. “I don’t think it in any way impedes defendant Trump’s ability to campaign.”
When Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee asked Sadow whether the proceedings could continue into 2025 if Trump wins the presidency — as Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) has publicly suggested — Sadow argued that the trial would interfere with his client’s duties as president under the Supremacy Clause, which prohibits interfering with constitutional duties, and would have to be postponed until he is out of office.
The back and forth came as McAfee, who is overseeing the case, said it was too soon to set a trial date, pointing in part to the uncertain schedule of Trump’s other pending legal cases. That includes a scheduled March trial in the federal election interference case brought against Trump by special counsel Jack Smith and a pending May trial alleging that Trump mishandled and refused to return hundreds of classified documents.
McAfee also asked prosecutors how long they would need to prepare for trial should an opening occur earlier than expected, appearing to allude to the possibility of a delay in one of the federal cases. The answer was 30 days — raising the possibility of a surprisingly swift trial start, depending on events.
McAfee also suggested he was still considering splitting up the 15 remaining defendants in the case — potentially allowing some defendants to be tried separately from Trump — though he said he would not make any decisions until next year.
Subscribe to The Trump Trials, our weekly email newsletter on Donald Trump’s four criminal cases
Friday’s hours-long motions hearing was the most substantive one in the case so far, with lawyers for various defendants arguing motions that could lead to dismissal of charges in some cases. Even if McAfee does not rule for the defendants in these motions, their lawyers are also asking him to allow them to file pretrial appeals, which would allow them to make their case to the state Supreme Court — and could affect the timing of a trial date.
Among the arguments presented Friday by various defendants: that the indictment violates the First Amendment by criminalizing political speech, that it improperly usurps federal supremacy by seeking to punish the pro-Trump electors who met and voted despite Joe Biden’s victory in the state, and that it is itself so poorly executed that it violates the requirement that an indictment be “perfect in form and substance.”
Don Samuel, a lawyer for former state GOP lawyer Ray Smith, one of Trump’s co-defendants, gave as one example that his client has been charged with solicitation of violating an oath of office — yet the indictment doesn’t say what oath was violated. Prosecutors defended the indictment against claims made by Samuel and other lawyers.
The hearing also marked Sadow’s first formal appearance before McAfee in the case — and one of the first public acknowledgments in open court that its main defendant will probably be the GOP nominee for president next year.
“It’s very possible that my client will be running for election as President of the United States for the Republican Party,” Sadow said to a courtroom packed with dozens of lawyers and journalists. “This case should not be interfering with an election.”
Sadow also pressed McAfee for help obtaining a list of evidence in Trump’s federal election-interference case, offering to write up subpoenas for the information that he hoped the judge would sign. Among the evidence Sadow is seeking, he said, is information about former vice president Mike Pence, who he said is an expected witness in the Fulton case. He argued that he was not yet asking for access to the evidence but merely wanted a list to determine whether any of it is relevant in the Georgia case.
McAfee questioned his legal authority to order the retrieval of evidence in a federal case. Sadow said the consequence for him not getting to see the evidence could be dismissal of charges against his client.
Sadow also told McAfee that he anticipated that Trump would probably be present during much of the Fulton County proceedings, including jury selection. But he said he was not sure whether Trump would attend proceedings every day.
Sadow moved with characteristic swagger, wearing his signature cowboy boots and occupying a seat at the defense table for the entire hearing even as other lawyers moved in and out to make room for others whose motions were being considered.
Since Trump and 18 of his allies were indicted in August, four defendants have pleaded guilty — including former pro-Trump attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, who had requested speedy trials and were set to go before a jury in October. Both reached plea deals on the eve of their joint trial. Two other defendants — former Trump campaign adviser Jenna Ellis and Atlanta bail bondsman Scott Hall — also pleaded guilty. All have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and testify at trial.
Willis has repeatedly pressed for Trump and his 14 remaining co-defendants to be tried together. But two of Trump’s co-defendants filed motions asking McAfee to separate the trials, including former Trump legal adviser John Eastman.
“There are a number of defendants who are not running for president of the United States,” Eastman’s lawyer, Wilmer “Buddy” Parker, argued. Parker said his client would be happy for his trial to come sooner than Trump’s trial.
In his Sept. 14 order announcing that Chesebro and Powell would be tried separately, McAfee indicated he could consider “additional divisions” in the case — but would not make that decision until later. In the order, he nodded to prosecutors who have argued that trying all defendants at one time would be more “efficient” for the court. But McAfee also acknowledged logistical concerns about trying a multi-defendant case, including finding a courtroom large enough to accommodate all the defendants and their legal teams as well as security detail.
On Friday, McAfee repeated those concerns — saying he had not ruled out trying all 15 defendants together but that he was still concerned about the logistics. He suggested that of a trial of eight defendants might be more efficient — though he also said he was not committed to that number.
But McAfee said if he did split up the case, he would allow prosecutors to determine who would stand trial together. “A group A and a group B,” McAfee said, adding that he would not make a final decision on the issue until next year.
The latest: Four of Trump’s co-defendants have pleaded guilty in the Georgia election case. Trump previously entered a plea of not guilty. The Washington Post published details of recorded statements given to prosecutors by the co-defendants who accepted plea deals in the case, offering previously undisclosed information about the effort by Trump and his allies to reverse his defeat.
The charges: Trump was charged with 13 counts, including violating the state’s racketeering act. Read the full text of the Georgia indictment. Here’s a breakdown of the charges against Trump and a list of everyone else who was charged in the Georgia case. Trump now faces 91 total charges in four criminal cases.
The case: Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) has been investigating whether Trump and his associates broke the law when they sought to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia. Here’s what happens next in the Georgia case.
Historic mug shot: Trump surrendered at the Fulton County Jail on charges that he illegally conspired to overturn his 2020 election loss. Authorities released his booking record — including his height and weight — and mug shot.