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Special counsel Jack Smith is seeking to put Donald Trump on trial on Jan. 2, 2024 — less than five months away — on charges related to his bid to subvert the 2020 election.
That aggressive timeline would put the weighty criminal trial first on Trump’s crowded calendar of criminal proceedings and guarantee an extensive airing of the grave allegations against him just before Republican primary voters head to the polls.
Prosecutors say the abbreviated timeline is rooted in the extraordinary public interest in seeing this case resolved.
“It is difficult to imagine a public interest stronger than the one in this case,” assistant special counsel Molly Gaston wrote in a court document filed Thursday, “in which the defendant — the former President of the United States — is charged with three criminal conspiracies intended to undermine the federal government, obstruct the certification of the 2020 presidential election, and disenfranchise voters.”
Prosecutors say they’re prepared to deliver a “large amount” of evidence to Trump’s team within days and have gone to great lengths to organize it in a way that will simplify the defense's ability to review it and prepare for trial. Among the evidence they say they are ready to deliver — as soon as U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan enters a “protective order” to govern the handling of the evidence — are grand jury transcripts, witness interviews and evidence obtained through “numerous sealed search warrants.”
Trump’s legal team is expected to file its own proposed trial timeline next week but has already forecast a starkly different view of the case. Trump’s attorney John Lauro has predicted it could take years to review and organize evidence, well past the 2024 election in which Trump is favored to be the Republican nominee.
If Chutkan agrees to something close to prosecutors’ preferred timeline, it would put Trump on track to face three criminal trials prior to the close of primary season. He’s scheduled to go to trial in New York in March on state criminal charges that he falsified business records to cover up an affair with a porn actress. He’s also on track for a criminal trial in Florida in May on federal charges — also brought by Smith — that he hoarded classified information at his Mar-a-Lago estate after leaving office.
Smith’s team says they anticipate putting on four to six weeks of evidence in the case, a timeline that — when combined with his other legal obligations — would put Trump in a courtroom for most of the first three months of 2024.
Smith’s team sharply rejected Lauro’s characterization of the evidence in their eight-page filing, saying it misconstrues how much preparation Trump will need to be ready for trial. Significant swaths of prosecutors’ evidence have been aired by the House Jan. 6 select committee, they note.
“The defendant and his counsel have long been aware of details of the Government’s investigation leading to his indictment, having had first contact with Government counsel in June 2022,” Gaston added, noting that Trump was accompanied at his arraignment by Evan Corcoran, a lawyer who Gaston said was “familiar with certain relevant pre-indictment information.”
“In sum, the defendant has a greater and more detailed understanding of the evidence supporting the charges against him at the outset of this criminal case than most defendants, and is ably advised by multiple attorneys, including some who have represented him in this matter for the last year,” she wrote.
Notably, prosecutors intend to propose a separate schedule for a hearing on the prospect that a “minimal amount of classified information” may be part of the evidence they provide to Trump in the case.
Under prosecutors’ timeline, Trump and the special counsel would trade relevant motions throughout the fall before jury selection begins on Dec. 11, just four months from Friday. Once selected, jurors would be excused until a “date certain” in January to avoid any hardships over the holidays, prosecutors proposed.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct the stated lengths of time before prospective jury selection and before a prospective trial.