As the trial of former President Donald J. Trump approaches, there is a “red flag” that could potentially see an appointed federal judge taken off the case.
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, writing on her Substack page “Civil Discourse,” said that special counsel Jack Smith “made a smart strategic play” when he filed a motion late last month in U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon’s South Florida courtroom to have Trump’s trial date moved from August to December.
Under the Speedy Trial Act, the government has a 70-day timeframe from arraignment to prosecution.
The act allows for certain periods of “excludable time” and other delays that typically favor the defendant. However, Trump’s legal team is expected to request additional delays, potentially aiming to extend the proceedings beyond the upcoming presidential election year, the outlet added.
“It’s a bit of a double-edged sword for Trump,” Vance noted on her page. “He could agree to the December date, which he won’t do, at least not without the intention of asking for a continuance as that date gets closer. If Trump objects to a December trial and asks for a date after the first of the year, the government will undoubtedly demand a ruling that he cannot use rallies, campaign events, and primary dates as an excuse for further delay.
“Since it would be entirely reasonable, under the government’s proposed schedule, to try the case in December, if Trump asks for additional leeway and the Court grants it, there is no reason it shouldn’t come with conditions that ensure the people get their right to a speedy trial,” she noted further.
Prosecutors are likely to further argue that there is limited justification for Trump to seek a delay in the trial that would extend into late 2024 or beyond.
“Unless Trump can identify one, it would be a red flag if the judge gave Trump preferential treatment, in terms of continuing to delay proceedings while campaigning, that other defendants can’t receive,” Vance wrote.
As part of the discovery process, the government has provided non-classified evidence to defense attorneys. Therefore, any approval of a trial delay by Cannon could draw attention and scrutiny.
“There’s no legitimate reason for an extended delay before trial and certainly no reason to delay it until after the 2024 election, more than a year off,” Vance noted in her assessment. “A ruling to that effect from Judge Cannon would likely provoke renewed concern about her ability to handle the case in a fair and unbiased way.
“Expect Trump to make the motion, but a decision by the judge to move the trial that far off would be unprecedented,” she added.
The outcome rests on whether or not Judge Aileen Cannon grants any leeway when it comes to a possible extension beyond the upcoming presidential election year.