Judge rejects Trump bid to push federal election trial to 2026

Former President Donald Trump speaks with the press at the Iowa Pork Producers booth during the 2023 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 12, 2023.

Demetrius Freeman | The Washington Post | Getty Images

The federal judge presiding over Donald Trump’s criminal election interference case shut down a bid by the former president to set his trial more than two-and-a-half years away.

“This case is not going to trial in 2026,” Judge Tanya Chutkan said in a hearing Monday morning in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., NBC News reported.

But the judge also said that she would reject a proposal by federal prosecutors to bring the case to trial in less than five months.

“These proposals are obviously very far apart, and for reasons I will discuss shortly, neither of them is acceptable,” she said at the start of the hearing, which was ongoing as of 11:15 a.m. ET.

Trump was not required to appear at the hearing, which also addressed the federal procedures for handling the “small amount of classified information” that the government said it has identified in the case.

The former president earlier this month pleaded not guilty to the four-count indictment charging him with illegally conspiring to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

Trump, a top Republican presidential candidate who is facing four separate criminal cases, has sought to move his trials past the November 2024 election. But judges in two of his cases have already set trial dates starting in 2024.

Special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading Trump’s prosecution in his two federal cases, proposed that the case in D.C. federal court should head to trial on Jan. 2. Trump’s attorneys responded that the trial should start in April 2026, claiming that they need a significant amount of time to sift through the millions of pages of potential evidence.

Trump has already lashed out at the special counsel as an “out of touch lunatic” for asking for a trial date that would likely overlap with the Iowa caucuses, which are scheduled for Jan. 15.

The hearing itself grew similarly heated when Trump’s attorney John Lauro declared that it was an “outrage of justice” for the government to seek such a quick trial date.

“Let’s take the temperature down,” Chutkan responded.

The special counsel previously accused Trump’s lawyers of exaggerating the amount of evidence that they will have to sift through and making unhelpful comparisons, such as claiming that the number of pages of discovery material would stack up nearly 5,000 feet high.

Lauro in Monday’s hearing said the task of preparing for a case with so much discovery was “enormous” and “overwhelming.” He argued that they cannot be ready in a shorter timeframe than the one they proposed.

But Chutkan was unconvinced. “This case isn’t going to trial in 2026 and I want to know despite the rhetoric in your response to the government’s trial date, realistically why you think you need this time,” she said.

She noted that “a significant amount of this discovery is duplicative,” adding that Trump’s attorneys have known the indictment was coming “for quite some time.”

Lauro reiterated that the defense team will “have to absorb a gargantuan amount of facts.” Trump “is not above the law, but he’s not below the law,” the attorney declared.

Trump is currently the clear front-runner in polls of the Republican presidential primary race. He has claimed without evidence that his four criminal cases are part of a conspiracy to undermine his candidacy for the 2024 race.

Trump has repeatedly claimed to be the victim of “election interference,” which is essentially what he is accused of in D.C. and in a state-level criminal case in Georgia.

This is developing news. Please check back for updates.