Judge nixes Trump’s March 4 trial date in federal election subversion case

Judge nixes Trump’s March 4 trial date in federal election subversion case

Donald Trump’s March 4 trial date in his Washington, D.C., criminal case is officially off.

The federal judge overseeing the case made the call on Friday, just hours after indicating in court that lingering uncertainty surrounding the case has clouded her trial calendar in April and possibly beyond.

Judge Tanya Chutkan’s decision was widely expected amid Trump’s ongoing effort to have higher courts declare him immune from the charges, which stem from Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election. Chutkan rescinded the trial date in a brief order, indicating only that she would reschedule it “if and when” the immunity issue is settled.

The trial, if it occurs, is expected to last for several months.

In a lightly attended proceeding Friday, Chutkan tacitly acknowledged the lingering uncertainty the case had caused for her schedule.

“I do not know what my schedule will be in mid-April,” the Obama-appointed judge said at a brief conference attempting to schedule the sentencing of a Jan. 6 defendant who was convicted last year of breaching the Capitol.

At the short conference, Chutkan didn’t explicitly mention Trump’s case. But she made clear that she’s keeping her calendar flexible in the event she is able to reschedule it.

Chutkan recently scheduled the trial of Anthony Mastanduno, another Jan. 6 defendant, to begin on April 2, prompting inferences that she doesn’t anticipate Trump’s trial occurring before the latter half of that month. On Friday, she said she had already told Mastanduno that his trial “may have to be moved depending on other matters.”

For now, evidentiary motions and other typical pretrial proceedings are on hold in Trump’s case while the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals mulls the immunity question. The D.C. Circuit’s eventual ruling will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, prompting further delays.

Until those higher courts resolve the issue, Chutkan is unable to move Trump’s case forward. She has suspended key pretrial deadlines that she will need to reschedule if the proceedings get back on track. Nearly 60 days have elapsed since Trump’s immunity claim paused the proceedings, suggesting that even if Chutkan received a green light to restart the case immediately, she would likely set his trial in late April or early May.

Chutkan acknowledged Friday the intense scrutiny applied to her scheduling decisions of late. “My words are always subject to interpretation,” she said.

Chutkan’s comments came as she attempted to schedule the sentence of defendant Antony Vo, who was convicted by a jury last September for breaching the restricted Capitol building on Jan. 6. She ultimately set his sentencing date for April 10, even though she acknowledged she would likely be in trial — the only question, she said, was which trial it would be.

“We’ll make it work,” Chutkan told Vo’s attorney Carmen Hernandez. Acknowledging Hernandez’s own busy trial calendar, Chutkan added, “Mine is a little less certain.”

“I will probably be in trial,” Chutkan said, “one way or the other.”

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