Judge delays Trump’s federal elections trial

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A federal judge on Friday said former President Donald Trump’s trial won’t start as scheduled on March 4, the day before Super Tuesday.

It’s unclear when the case will go to trial. Judge Tanya Chutkan vacated the March 4 start date and said she would “set a new schedule if and when the mandate is returned” from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Prosecutors asked the Court of Appeals to decide if Trump has presidential immunity from the charges. Three judges heard oral arguments in the appeal on Jan. 9. The Court of Appeals has yet to issue a decision.

Trump has argued that he has presidential immunity in the D.C. case, where he is accused of using criminal conspiracies to subvert the 2020 election results.

The federal election interference trial was initially set to start March 4, the day before Super Tuesday, when 15 Republican primaries and caucuses are scheduled to take place.

During oral arguments in January in the appeal, the judges questioned Trump’s immunity from prosecution for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The panel did not indicate that it would adopt Trump’s immunity argument. Trump’s legal team said that presidents could only be prosecuted if they had already been impeached and convicted by the Senate. Trump was impeached twice in the House but never convicted in the Senate.

The judges asked skeptical questions. Judge Florence Pan asked if a former president could be prosecuted for selling pardons or military secrets. She also asked if a president could be prosecuted for ordering the assassination of a political opponent.

While the appeals court has yet to rule on Trump’s immunity claims, Trump is expected to appeal any unfavorable ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team of federal prosecutors charged Trump with four federal counts related to contesting the 2020 election and the storming of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021. The charges include conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction, and conspiracy against the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted, according to the indictment. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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