The Pre-game Show Is about to Start
The courts move slowly, but they do move.
Donald Trump has been indicted in four jurisdictions (D.C., Florida, Georgia, and New York). The dates have been set in some of them,
but all are subject to change, partly in response to motions by the prosecution or defense and partly simply to avoid any overlap.
In any high-profile trial, there are many pretrial motions. That show will start
to occur big time this week, although there were a few somewhat relevant motions and decisions last week.
Note that some of the motions and decisions may be under seal, at the discretion of the judge.
That means they won't be made public until later, if ever.
Here is a
of the state of play in each case.
Last week, Enrique Tarrio, former leader of the right-wing vigilante group Proud Boys, got popped for 22 years, the longest sentence
in the Jan. 6 coup attempt so far. In general, the bigger the fish, the longer the sentence. There is one fish even bigger than Tarrio and
he probably can't be happy about the implications of Tarrio's sentence and the strength of the DoJ's case. Also ominous for the Big Fish is
that Tarrio wasn't at the Capitol on Jan. 6, so that is not a requirement for a conviction and long sentence.
Even more ominous is that the grand jury is still meeting, indicating that the investigation is ongoing and there could be more
indictments or superseding indictments.
In addition, Judge Tanya Chutkan has warned Trump to shut up about the case and not post defamatory things about her, the
prosecutors, or potential witnesses. He just keeps doing it, anyway. Her patience may run out in which case she could revoke Trump's bail
or set it much higher. Theoretically, she could reset the trial date earlier than March 4, but that is very unlikely.
One person relevant to the bathroom documents case, Yuscil Taveras, formally flipped last week.
He signed an agreement to help the prosecution in return for not being prosecuted himself.
He was the I.T. guy at Mar-a-Lago and was
ordered to destroy the surveillance videos. He refused. His testimony could be crucial because it goes to the heart of the case:
Did Trump know that he had broken the law? Ordering evidence to be destroyed is not only a crime in itself, but is testimony
to the fact that he knew full well that what he was doing was illegal. People who think what they are doing is legal don't order
other people to destroy evidence.
His testimony in the trial could convince the jury that Trump knowingly and willfully tried to cover up his crime, a crucial point
for the prosecution.
This week the lawyers will wrangle over—the lawyers. Some of the relevant people are sharing lawyers paid for by one of Trump's
super PACs. That is a problem because a lawyer can't ethically call one of his clients to testify against another one of his clients.
So some of the lawyers may need to be replaced. But finding new lawyers admitted to the Florida bar who are willing to take on
some of the people involved in the Mar-a-Lago case may not be easy. Also relevant is who will pay them since some of the people
who need them aren't rich. Having Trump pay for them is legal but very iffy since he is not exactly a disinterested party.
Last week, Judge Robert McBurney unsealed papers showing that the Fulton County special grand jury recommended indicting
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and former Georgia senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, but D.A. Fani Willis declined to
indict them, as is her right.
Also, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones rejected a motion from Mark Meadows to move the case from state court to federal court.
Trump could try that this week, but he will almost certainly fail as well (see above).
Prosecutors have said they plan to call 150 witnesses in the sprawling RICO case, so the case could go on forever. The judge
could set a starting date this week, mindful of the D.C. case that will begin on March 4 and is expected to last 6-8 weeks. He knows that the feds get priority, so
he could pick May or June, although the Florida case is tentatively scheduled for May. The Georgia and Florida judges may need
to get on the phone to work this out.
Also relevant is that Judge Scott McAfee has already ruled that two of the 19 defendants, Kenneth "The Cheese" Chesebro and Sidney Powell,
will go on trial together on Oct. 23. But four more of the 19 have also asked for a speedy trial. McAfee could lump them in with
Chesebro and Powell this week. He clearly wants to move along. That trial will be televised.
He knows there are going to be a boatload of motions, so he is going to hold a hearing every week to listen to them.
- New York:
Nothing to see here. Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg knows he is the low man on the totem pole here and will let the other judges do their
thing and then go to court to fill in any gaps in the schedule. Also relevant in New York is that another judge, Lewis Kaplan,
ruled that Trump defamed E. Jean Carroll a second time and will empanel a jury to decide on damages later this year or early
next year. The jury could award her $50 million or more
if it wants to. The sky's the limit. A massive award could upset Trump so much that it knocks him off his apropos and makes him
say something stupid that hurts him in one of the criminal cases (or causes Carroll to sue him a third time).
Those are the known unknowns, but with four criminal cases and two civil cases (Carroll's and Letitia James') also out there,
there are plenty of unknown unknowns as well. (V)
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