The public calendar no longer shows the scheduled start date for former President Donald Trump’s federal election obstruction trial in 2020. Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the case, had originally set the trial to begin on March 4.
Trump has pleaded not guilty to four charges related to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into events leading up to the January 6 attack. However, it was widely anticipated that the trial would be delayed because the D.C. Circuit is currently deliberating whether Trump should be granted immunity from prosecution due to his tenure in office.
It remains uncertain when the three-judge panel at the appeals court will reach a decision on whether Trump can use absolute immunity to dismiss Smith’s case, despite hearing arguments on January 9.
According to The Washington Post, which first reported this development, the federal court in Washington, D.C., has removed the March 4 trial date from its public calendar.
This suggests that the trial will be postponed while the appeal process regarding immunity takes place.
“Donald Trump’s March 4 trial on election fraud charges has been dropped from the court calendar. In December, Judge Tanya Chutkan agreed to freeze the case while Trump appealed the indictment on presidential immunity grounds. Its removal from the court calendar signals that the case will likely not begin for several more months, pushing it closer to the presidential election in November. The Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals is now considering the case, and it will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court after that,” Newsweek reported.
Following the circulation of the update on social media, numerous political figures engaged in speculation regarding the omission of the March 4 trial date from the public calendar, suggesting that this indicated a potential dismissal of the case altogether.
In response to these speculations, Bill Shipley, an attorney representing defendants implicated in the Capitol riot, vehemently dismissed such notions as “idiotic,” asserting that it was unfounded to entertain the belief that Smith’s case would be dropped.
“Tomorrow was the day the Juror questionnaires were supposed to be returned to the Court by prospective jurors and given to the parties. Was a questionnaire ever prepared? No—the case has been stayed. So no questionnaires will be received,” Shipley posted on X.
“One of the first questions is ‘Do you have any plans that would make it impossible for you to be a juror from March 3 to May 3?’ Well, you can’t send that out until you know what the start date will be,” he added. “So all you supposedly ‘in the know’ X-sters, just stop posting nonsensical conspiracy theories about why the Court—NOT JACK SMITH—removed the trial from the March 4 calendar.”
Jack Smith's Trump case removed from court docket raises eyebrowshttps://t.co/knmMW1WLmv
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) February 2, 2024
According to The Post, Chutkan has recently set a hearing date of March 18 for a defendant in another case. She expressed her belief that she would not be involved in any trial proceedings in March.
On January 18, Chutkan filed court documents which halted Smith’s team from making any motions during the suspension of the case.
This suspension is due to the ongoing consideration of the immunity appeal. Chutkan initially provided the former president’s legal team with seven months to prepare for the trial after indictment. However, she clarified in the filings that this timeframe does not include the period of case suspension.
“Contrary to the defendant’s assertion, the court has not and will not set deadlines in this case based on the assumption that he has undertaken preparations when not required to do so,” Chutkan wrote.
A prediction made by a former federal prosecutor last week stated that none of the four criminal cases against Trump would reach trial prior to the election.
“I’ve said pretty much since day 1 that I didn’t think any of the cases would get to trial before the November election. 4 criminal cases are pending against Trump, and the Democrats and Biden are desperate to have one of them go to trial. Given their locations, convictions are almost certain regardless of the merits of the cases or the evidence,” said Bill Shipley, who spent 22 years as a federal prosecutor and recently defended more than 20 of the January 6 defendants as a private attorney.