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Trump's Trial Schedule May Be Upended

Donald Trump is on trial in four different jurisdictions: D.C. (for the insurrection), Florida (for stealing government documents), Georgia (for conspiracy), and New York (for trying to cover up payments to a porn star). For several months, everyone thought that the first one would be the one in D.C. relating to Trump's role in the Jan. 6 coup attempt. But now U. S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, the presiding judge in that trial, has formally postponed the trial to an indefinite date. She is waiting to find out whether Richard Nixon was right when he said: "When the president does it, it is not illegal."

The other federal trial, the one in Florida about the documents Trump kept at Mar-a-Lago in violation of multiple laws, is being presided over by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon. She appears to be more interested in preventing the trial than holding it. Her reasoning might well be if she delays the trial until after the election and Trump wins, she could get the next available seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. That would be a lovely promotion and delaying and delaying has no downside for her.

The Georgia RICO case was supposed to start in August, but Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis' decision to have a romantic relationship with the lead prosecutor could end up delaying that one by months (see below).

This leaves the hush money case in New York as the only one that is ready to go right now. It is about Trump paying Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about what she has called "the worst 90 seconds of my life" and then cooking the books to hide the payment. It is also the least serious of the four cases because if Trump had paid her out of his campaign account and called her a "campaign consultant," it would have been legal.

There is really no doubt about what happened, but the main witness will be Daniels (to formally establish what happened). Trump's attorneys will try to convince the jury that you can't believe what a porn star says, in an attempt to distract them from the fact that the payment itself is not at issue. It is how it was reported that is the crime. Another key witness will be Michael Cohen, who arranged the payment. However, he is now a convicted felon who served time so Trump's attorneys will try to discredit him as a liar. A third key witness is former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, who is also a convicted felon.

The judge in this case, Juan Merchan, has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 15, after which he may set the trial date. And with no other trials set in the near future, Merchan could easily pick a date in March or April and thus go first. Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg would love this, because then he would get his 15 minutes of fame with the whole country watching. This would be a godsend to Trump because: (1) it is the weakest case and Trump might win it, (2) it is the least important case, (3) the penalty if Trump is found guilty could just be a fine and (4) many voters won't care whether Trump is guilty of what he will call "a minor bookkeeping mistake." Better yet for Trump, if he is acquitted, which is certainly possible since the crime is hard to understand and none of the key witnesses are purer than the driven snow, people will think none of the other charges are serious and that he will probably be acquitted on all of them. For Trump, the best case scenario is the New York trial in April with an acquittal and then no more trials until after the election. That now is a real possibility, though far from certain if the immunity issue is settled soon. (V)

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