Updated Feb 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump's federal 2020 election trial postponed indefinitely

Former President Trump speaking in Washington, D.C., in January 2024.

Former President Trump speaking in Washington, D.C., in January 2024. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The federal judge overseeing former President Trump's federal 2020 election trial officially postponed its March 4 start date indefinitely while his claim of presidential immunity remains on appeal.

Why it matters: It's now likely that the first of Trump's four criminal trials will be over New York's charges related to 2016 hush money payments, which is slated for March 25.

  • Judge Tanya Chutkan did not set a new date.
  • The expected delay in the federal 2020 election case could also push the trial closer to the November elections and could set back others, including the trial over classified documents that's set for May 20.

Catch up fast: The Jan. 6 case was paused in December while Trump appealed a lower-court's rejection of his immunity claims.

  • Special prosecutor Jack Smith attempted to prevent the delay by asking the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether Trump is protected by presidential immunity.
  • It rejected the request, meaning Trump's appeal must first get through the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for D.C. before the Supreme Court can decide if it will take up the case.

A three-judge panel of the D.C. Appeals Court heard oral arguments over the claim in early January.

Between the lines: Trump's lawyers have made two specific arguments in support of presidential immunity.

  • They have claimed that Trump could not face criminal prosecution because he was not first convicted in the Senate's impeachment trial over his actions around the 2020 election.
  • They have also said he cannot face charges because his actions around that time were performed within the "outer perimeter" of the president's official duties. They cited the 1982 Supreme Court case, Nixon v. Fitzgerald.

Yes, but: Legal experts have warned that Trump's immunity claim regarding the congressional impeachment process would have dire consequences for the rule of law.

  • The experts said it would allow impeachable officials to commit crimes and not expect punishment if either their congressional allies don't hold them accountable or if they hide the crime until they leave office and can no longer be impeached.
  • Some of Trump's fellow Republicans said directly after the Senate trial that he was not immune from the criminal justice system or civil litigation over his actions.

Go deeper: What to know about Trump's immunity claims in the 2020 election cases

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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