Trump set to stand trial during election primaries

World

Donald Trump’s election interference trial could start a day before a key date in the Republican primaries, according to court documents.

The prosecutor in Atlanta, Georgia, leading the election interference case against the former US president and 18 others has requested to start the high-profile trial on 4 March.

Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis said in a proposed scheduling order filed with the court on Wednesday that the chosen date would “not conflict” with hearings and trial dates related to other criminal and civil matters against Trump.

If approved, the trial would start a day before Trump competes in Super Tuesday – a key date in the primary contest to decide the next Republican presidential nominee.

Trump is currently the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination, with a 40-point lead in most national and early voting state polls.

Roughly 14 primaries are set to be held across the country, from California and Texas to Massachusetts and Maine on Super Tuesday.

Several states will already have held their nominating contests, including Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

It comes after a court in Georgia charged Trump with trying to illegally overturn the 2020 US presidential election, which he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

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2:20

Fourth set of charges against Trump in 2023

Among the charges is “solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer” – in other words trying to persuade someone to betray their office.

It is the fourth set of charges against the former president this year.

Ms Willis brought 13 counts against Trump and 18 of his associates, including forgery and racketeering, which is most often used to target members of organised crime groups.

According to Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act it is a crime to participate in, acquire or maintain control of an “enterprise” through a “pattern of racketeering activity” or to conspire to do so.

The scheme the charge relates to does not need to have been successful for it to be considered criminal.

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1:51

What is Trump charged with?

Read more:
Trump might welcome charges, but his co-accused might be tempted to ‘flip’
What are the investigations Donald Trump is facing?

Several other people have been charged including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Trump’s former lawyer and ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, another of Trump’s ex-lawyers.

All the defendants were charged with racketeering, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

In a statement passed to US broadcaster NBC by an adviser, Giuliani said: “This is an affront to American democracy and does permanent, irrevocable harm to our justice system.

Image:
Rudy Giuliani
Pic:AP

“It’s just the next chapter in a book of lies with the purpose of framing President Donald Trump and anyone willing to take on the ruling regime.

“They lied about Russian collusion, they lied about Joe Biden’s foreign bribery scheme, and they lied about Hunter Biden’s laptop hard drive proving 30 years of criminal activity.

“The real criminals here are the people who have brought this case forward, both directly and indirectly.”

Trump is already defending several other cases – just a year before he hopes to reclaim the presidency.

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3:07

Trump lashes out over criminal charges

The most serious concern allegations he plotted to overturn his election loss, laying the ground for the infamous US Capitol riots.

He denies the claims and says they are politically motivated.

In a statement, the Trump campaign said: “They could have brought this two and a half years ago, yet they chose to do this for election interference reasons in the middle of President Trump’s successful campaign.

“The legal double standard set against President Trump must end.”

Trump’s other legal troubles include allegations he kept national security documents at his Florida home when he left office.

The ex-president has again pleaded not guilty.

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