Special counsel seeks Jan. 2 start date for Trump's trial on charges trying to overturn election

The former president pleaded not guilty to all charges last week.

August 10, 2023, 2:23 PM

Special counsel Jack Smith said in a filing Thursday he is prepared to take former President Donald Trump to trial by Jan. 2 of next year over Trump's federal indictment for seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

Smith estimates it will take no longer than four to six weeks to present his case to a jury in Washington, D.C., according to the filing.

"This trial date ... would give the defendant time to review the discovery in this case and prepare a defense, and would allow the Court and parties to fully litigate any pre-trial legal issues," Smith's office writes in the filing.

"Most importantly, a January 2 trial date would vindicate the public's strong interest in a speedy trial -- an interest guaranteed by the Constitution and federal law in all cases, but of particular significance here, where the defendant, a former president, is charged with conspiring to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election, obstruct the certification of the election results, and discount citizens' legitimate votes," the filing said.

Trump pleaded not guilty last week to four counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, conspiracy against rights and obstruction of an official proceeding, tied to his and other co-conspirators' alleged efforts to subvert his election loss, which culminated in the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Underscoring the former president's busy legal calendar, a start date of Jan. 2 would see the trial begin less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, which are currently scheduled for Jan 15 -- which itself is the same day Trump is scheduled to go to trial in writer E. Jean Carroll's initial defamation lawsuit.

PHOTO: Illustration
Possible penalties Trump faces if convicted in DOJ's Jan. 6 case.
ABC News

Judge Tanya Chutkan has given Trump's legal team a deadline of next Thursday to respond to the government's proposed trial date with one of their own.

The judge is expected to set an initial date for the trial when the parties meet for a status conference on Aug. 28.

Trump's attorney John Lauro said in various interviews over the weekend that he believed the election case should take two to three years before going to trial, given its magnitude.

But Smith's office writes in their latest filing that the Trump team has refused to accept discovery that the government has ready, even on an interim basis -- which Smith's office found "perplexing" given that Trump's lawyers' main argument for delaying a trial is the defendant's need to review discovery.

The government also took issue with statements made by Lauro that the length of the government's investigation -- "three and a half years" -- should be a factor in a delay given the volume of discovery.

"Not only is this claim impossible, as January 6, 2021, was two and a half years ago, but it is disingenuous," Smith's team writes in the filing.

According to the special counsel, the first contact with Trump and his lawyers about the investigation was June 2022: "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."

In Smith's separate case against Trump for the former president's alleged mishandling of classified documents and obstruction of justice, Judge Aileen Cannon has set a trial date for late May of next year.