A federal judge in Washington has formally deferred Donald Trump’s March trial on allegations of trying to disrupt the 2020 election, while a major legal appeal from the former president remains unresolved in court, news agency Associated Press (AP) reported. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan postponed the March 4 trial date in the lawsuit brought by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, but no new date has yet been set.
The decision allows for a separate case in New York, accusing Trump of hush money payments to a porn actress, to proceed first. That case has long been seen as the least legally risky of Trump’s four indictments, with the alleged misbehavior being less serious than claims of mishandling sensitive materials or trying to destabilize a presidential election.
The postponement in Washington comes as a federal appeals court has yet to rule on Trump’s current petition claiming immunity from prosecution for actions taken in the White House. It is still being determined when the three-judge panel will rule. Still, any decision in favor of prosecutors that allows the case to proceed is anticipated to be challenged by the Trump team, resulting in more delays.
Both parties recognise the importance of time. Trump, who is facing four indictments and 91 felony charges, is hoping to postpone his criminal trials while he is the front-runner in the campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nominee. Meanwhile, Smith’s team hopes to prosecute Trump this year, before the November election. If Trump is elected while the lawsuit is still proceeding, he may direct the Justice Department to dismiss it and perhaps seek a pardon for himself.
The Washington case was supposed to proceed first, but it has been delayed for weeks by Trump’s appeal on the grounds that he is immune from prosecution – a contention strongly denied by Smith’s team. The appeals court heard arguments on January 9 and sounded sceptical of a Trump lawyer’s perspective. Despite its promise to act fast, the court has failed to make a verdict.