Former President Donald Trump.
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A federal judge set Trump’s election interference trial in Washington, DC, for March 4, 2024.
Prosecutors want a trial quickly because Trump’s social media attacks could influence the jury pool.
The case, brought by the Justice Department, is set to be the first of Trump’s four criminal trials.
Prosecutors who brought criminal charges against former President Donald Trump are using his social media posts against him, arguing his attacks on the cases mean they should go to trial as quickly as possible.
Molly Gaston, an Assistant US Attorney working for Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith, raised the argument at a hearing Monday morning before US District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, DC, federal court.
Trump’s frequent attacks on the judge, witnesses, and the city of Washington, DC, she argued, “potentially prejudices the jury pool.”
Federal prosecutors allege Trump broke laws by engaging in a conspiracy to block Congress from certifying the electoral victory of now-President Joe Biden. Prior to the hearing, Trump’s defense attorneys and prosecutors each proposed vastly different trial dates.
Prosecutors said the case should go to trial in January 2024, beating Trump’s three other pending criminal cases to the punch and ensuring it would conclude well before the November 2024 presidential election, where Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
Trump’s lawyers proposed a 2026 trial date. If Trump were to win the 2024 election, he would almost certainly delay or try to pardon himself during his presidency.
Chutkan ultimately set a March 4, 2024 trial date, a day before Super Tuesday. She said she had already informed New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, who had set a March 25 trial date for a separate criminal trial against Trump.
Trump’s use of social media has already caused him legal headaches.
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Judges have already attempted to reign in Trump’s breathless posts
Trump’s social media posts have frequently caused legal headaches for him and his attorneys. In the criminal indictment brought against him by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, over his attempt to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results, prosecutors cited his tweets as examples of his participation in the alleged racketeering conspiracy.
Judges have noted that his massive public platform means that he could effectively send messages to jurors or potential jurors.
Earlier this year, during a trial for E. Jean Carroll’s civil sexual abuse lawsuit against Trump, he posted on Truth Social that Carroll’s allegations were “a made-up SCAM.” Minutes later, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who oversaw the trial in Manhattan federal court, warned Trump’s lawyers that the messages may cross the line into “tampering” with the case.
“Your client seems to be endeavoring to talk to the public, but also seems to be talking to the jury in this case,” Kaplan said at the time.
As jurors began deliberating the case, Trump — who did not attend the trial — bashed the process on Truth Social yet again, much to Kaplan’s frustration.
Jurors ultimately found Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming Carroll. They awarded her $5 million in damages.
Judges have sought to reign in Trump’s social media posts in other ways.
In his Manhattan criminal case, Merchan issued a gag order that would forbid him from sharing evidence on social media ahead of the trial.
In Trump’s RICO case in Atlanta, his bond terms forbid him from making any “direct or indirect threat of any nature” against witnesses, co-defendants, or victims. It also forbids him from making threats against “the community” — in other words, the location of the jury pool.
Trump’s lawyers have indicated they will continue to try to push back the trial dates. In the Monday hearing, John Lauro, one of his attorneys, indicated he would file a change-of-venue motion to have the case trial in a different location and in front of a different judge. Lauro has previously said he wants the case trial in West Virginia, which legal experts say is unlikely to happen.
“I’m watching carefully for anything that might poison the jury pool,” Chutkan said at the end of the hearing.