Mar 1, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump's one loss this week: His 2024 courtroom strategy

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he leaves the courtroom during his civil fraud trial at New York Supreme Court on January 11, 2024 in New York Cit

Former President Trump speaks at New York Supreme Court on Jan. 11. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Former President Trump's delay tactics are paying off in court, but he may be losing one of his most potent venues for his grievance-centered campaign: courthouses.

Why it matters: It now appears likely that just one of Trump's four criminal cases — the one in New York involving hush money paid to an adult film actress — will conclude before the 2024 election.

  • That means Trump — who's used court appearances for rants against against Democrats and fundraising pleas — may need new backdrops in casting himself as a victim of politically motivated prosecutors.
  • Even as he's orchestrated his court appearances as campaign messaging, Trump has complained of being "stuck here" instead of being on the campaign trail.
  • But some of Trump's biggest fundraising hauls of the campaign have come after his courthouse speeches, his team has said.

The big picture: The U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Wednesday to hear arguments over whether Trump has immunity for any crimes committed as president has thrown a wrench into his court calendar — an extension of his campaign schedule.

  • The decision will further delay Trump's trial over his actions on Jan. 6. The trial initially was scheduled for early March, but now late summer or early fall looks more likely — so it probably wouldn't be done by the Nov. 5 election.

Driving the news: On Friday, Trump showed up at a Florida courtroom — where electronics aren't allowed — for what could be a key hearing in his federal classified documents case.

  • That trial is scheduled for May 20, but Trump's team has asked for more time to prepare. Friday's hearing could determine a new timeline in the case.
  • Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, has indicated she'll allow "reasonable adjustments" to the schedule — and may delay the case until the Supreme Court rules on Trump's immunity question.
  • On Thursday, Special Counsel Jack Smith proposed a new trial date: July 8, which would be one week before the GOP convention. Legal experts say trials involving classified documents can take months, even years.
  • Trump's team again requested that the trial be postponed until after the 2024 election, but proposed an Aug. 12 start date as an alternative.

Zoom in: Trump's next courtroom spotlight is likely to be back in Manhattan on March 25.

  • That's when he's is scheduled to go on trial for falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election.
  • It's considered by some legal experts to be the lowest-stakes trial Trump faces, but he's used court appearances there to rail against Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and President Biden.

Meanwhile in Georgia, Trump's election interference trial— scheduled for Aug. 5 — is in limbo because of allegations about an improper relationship between Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and the prosecutor.

  • Willis already has said she expects that trial to stretch into 2025. If a judge rules she should be replaced for ethical reasons, it would be delayed indefinitely.

What they're saying: "If you were a betting man, the hush money [case] is the only one I would bet on" happening before the election, said Joshua Naftalis, a former federal prosecutor in New York and now a partner at Pallas.

  • "There's so many variables floating around the other ones."
  • Trump's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump often has been able to choose when he shows up for a court hearing, but he may be required to attend the New York trial, which could last six weeks.

  • And there won't be any cameras allowed there. Trump has indicated he's all for showing the trial on TV.

The bottom line: Trump's effort to grandstand in court and delay all of his trials until after the election — presumably so that if he's elected president he could make the federal cases in Washington and Florida go away — is mostly working.

  • But, as Naftalis says: "If you're keeping score, Trump doesn't need to be convicted four times."
  • "Getting convicted once is devastating."

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