Sep 5, 2023 - Politics & Policy

GOP's season of trials

Photo: James Devaney/GC Images

A summer of indictments has set the stage for a fall dominated by legal proceedings, as former President Trump and other high-profile Republicans defend themselves against what they claim is a tainted justice system.

Why it matters: The dizzying headlines already pouring out of D.C., Georgia, Florida and New York will accelerate over the coming months, testing the public's patience for a notoriously slow and complex legal process.

Driving the news: Trump and the 18 co-defendants charged in Georgia's election interference case have all pleaded not guilty and waived their right to in-person arraignments Wednesday.

  • That includes former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who last week stunned legal experts by taking the witness stand in a risky bid to move his case to federal court.
  • Pro-Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro's trial has been set at his request for Oct. 23 — potentially offering a televised preview of prosecutors' racketeering case long before Trump himself goes to trial.

The big picture: Trump and his co-defendants in Georgia are not the only Republicans whose presumption of innocence could soon be scrutinized by a jury.

  • Former Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro's contempt trial is underway more than a year after he was indicted for defying a subpoena from the now-defunct House Jan. 6 committee.
  • Prosecutors are seeking to delay a status conference for indicted Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) to discuss "possible paths forward," signaling a plea deal may be in the works for the congressman and serial liar.
  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's impeachment trial also kicked off Tuesday, with the fate of the embattled Trump ally — who was separately indicted in 2015 — in the hands of the GOP-led state Senate.

The other side: The collapse of Hunter Biden's plea deal — and the appointment of U.S. Attorney David Weiss as special counsel — means the president's son could face his own historic trial.

  • House Republicans are already preparing to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Biden over unsubstantiated allegations of corruption and bribery tied to Hunter's foreign business dealings.

Between the lines: Partisans on both sides of the aisle are largely dug in on their perceptions of Trump's legal troubles, but a new CNN poll suggests there may be room for persuasion.

  • While 60% of Republicans say Trump is being prosecuted largely as a result of a politicized justice system, 29% say it won't be clear whether the charges are legitimate until after trials are held.
  • In all likelihood, however, Trump will not go on trial in all four cases until after the 2024 election — ensuring our politics remains tied to the courtroom for the foreseeable future.
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