Trump avoids collision of legal, political calendars on New Hampshire primary day

The former president has been balancing his campaign and court obligations.

January 23, 2024, 5:09 AM

Former President Donald Trump, who has been campaigning for a return to White House while defending himself in numerous criminal and civil court cases, narrowly avoided a potentially costly collision of his legal and political calendars on Tuesday after a judge delayed his defamation damages trial until the day after the New Hampshire primary.

On trial for defaming former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll in 2019, Trump was originally scheduled to testify in his own defense Monday in New York City, but the timeline for his testimony in the civil case was upended when a juror called in sick on Monday morning, pushing Trump's testimony to Tuesday -- the same time when Trump was scheduled to be vying for last-minute primary votes in the Granite State.

Late Monday afternoon, the judge in the case announced that the trial would instead resume on Wednesday, saving Trump from having to miss any of his primary day obligations.

Trump's court dates have been piling up as the presidential campaign picks up steam; ahead of Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary, he has spent 15 days campaigning in New Hampshire and 13 days in New York attending both his defamation trial and his civil fraud trial, in which he's accused of inflating his net worth in order get more favorable loan terms. Trump has denied all wrongdoing in both cases.

On the campaign trail, the former president has used his courtroom obligations to reinforce his unsubstantiated claims of election interference -- while also garnering outsized attention for his in-court appearances beyond what his GOP rivals have received through their traditional campaign stops.

"Tomorrow, I go to that, I do the court thing," Trump told supporters Sunday in Rochester, New Hampshire, regarding his campaigning while on trial. "Then I come back, and I make a speech tomorrow night. And hopefully that should wrap it up because we are so far ahead."

Trump has also used his court appearances to fundraise off his legal troubles. After his mug shot was taken in the Georgia election interference case, Trump’s campaign said it raised more than $9.4 million in the following week through the sale of tens of thousands of coffee mugs, shirts, and posters featuring the photo.

PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event, Jan. 17, 2023, in Portsmouth, N.H.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event, Jan. 17, 2023, in Portsmouth, N.H.
Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"I WAS IN TWO DIFFERENT COURTROOMS THIS WEEK," another campaign fundraising email, signed by Trump, said on Jan. 12. "This is just DAYS before the Iowa caucuses. Do you see what they’re doing?"

Though the former president's court appearances to this point have largely been voluntary, Trump and his campaign have stressed that the former president believes it is imperative he attend his trials to defend himself.

"I want to go to all my trials," said Trump earlier this month after attending closing arguments in his New York civil fraud trial.

Last Monday, Trump flew to New York immediately after winning the Iowa caucuses to attend the first day of the defamation trial the next morning, then went to New Hampshire in the afternoon for a campaign event. He again used his private jet to return to the New York courtroom before jetting to a New Hampshire campaign event the following day.

After Monday's short day in court, Trump again flew back to New Hampshire a day before primary day.

"It is what it is, and I will do what I have to do, all I ask for is fair Judges and Juries, and I will win every one of them," Trump posted on his social media platform after leaving court for the day.

Last fall, as Trump repeatedly made court appearances at his New York civil fraud trial, he often opted for private fundraisers, or dialing into interviews with friendly conservative radio shows, in lieu of public rallies. His campaign has also opted to send surrogates, like his son Donald Trump Jr., Rep. Matt Gaetz and Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, to maintain his presence in battleground states.

During these events, the surrogates often stress how Trump's legal schedule has forced him off the campaign trail.

Trump's clash of calendars is only likely to intensify in the spring, with the possible start of his federal election interference trial the day before Super Tuesday in March, followed by the scheduled start of his New York hush money trial later that month in New York City, his classified documents trial in Florida in May, and his Georgia election interference trial in August. In all cases, Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has embraced tactics, often successfully, to delay his trial dates.

Trump supporters ABC News spoke with said they aren't concerned if his legal commitments sometimes keep him off the campaign trail.

"I know what he's about," said Jennifer Gagne from Tilton, New Hampshire, while waiting to go into Trump's campaign event in Laconia Monday night. "I listen to him and everything he believes in, what he stands for. It's why I'm here today."

"I believe if he wasn't running for president, 99% of these indictments probably wouldn't even exist," said New Hampshire voter Terese Bastarache -- who added that she plans to vote for Trump even if he's convicted.

ABC News' Zohreen Shah and Matthew Fuhrman contributed to this report.