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Trump federal election interference trial delayed pending appeal

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Trump federal election interference trial delayed pending appeal

Feb 02, 2024 | 5:46 pm ET
By Jacob Fischler
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Trump federal election interference trial delayed pending appeal
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Former President Donald Trump speaks on May 28, 2022, in Casper, Wyoming. (Chet Strange/Getty Images)

A federal judge on Friday officially postponed former President Donald Trump’s trial on charges he conspired to overturn the 2020 election results.

The trial, which had been scheduled to begin March 4, will be delayed while an appeals court rules on Trump’s claim that he can’t be prosecuted because the charges stem from actions he took in his official capacity as president, according to a court order signed by U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan.

Chutkan made official a widely expected change in schedule as Trump’s appeal of Chutkan’s pretrial ruling denying his presidential immunity claims remained pending. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments on the issue Jan. 9 but has yet to issue a ruling.

Chutkan did not set a new trial date, saying the court would set a new schedule “if and when” the appeals court requires it.

Experts say Trump is unlikely to prevail in his claims of immunity, but the weeks-long delay caused by the appeal will push the case deeper into an election year. That could allow Trump, the leading GOP candidate for president, to consolidate political support and possibly regain the presidency and its pardon power before a trial is completed.

A four-count federal indictment last year after an investigation by U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith accused Trump of conspiring to subvert his 2020 reelection loss to Joe Biden, eventually leading to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

For weeks after the election, he fed his supporters a stream of lies that he won the election but was denied a second term by voter fraud, the indictment said. He worked with attorneys, a U.S. Department of Justice official and a political consultant to organize slates of false presidential electors in seven states Biden won to take the place of Biden electors and pressured Vice President Mike Pence to reject the legitimate electors, according to the indictment.

Late last year, Trump asked to dismiss the charges, saying he could not be prosecuted for any actions he took as president. Chutkan denied that claim, a ruling Trump appealed to the D.C. Circuit.

The appeals court appeared skeptical of Trump’s argument at Jan. 9 oral arguments, with one judge asking if his presidential immunity claim would extend to a president who ordered a Navy SEAL team to assassinate a political rival.

Trump also faces federal charges that he mishandled classified documents, Georgia state charges related to election interference and New York state charges related to alleged hush money payments in his 2016 White House run.

Trump’s legal problems have not hurt him with Republican voters and he appears well on the way to a third Republican presidential nomination after decisively winning the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The scrapped trial date in the federal election interference case was the day before Super Tuesday, when the most delegates are awarded as several states hold primaries and caucuses.