Former president Donald Trump arrives at the Iowa Pork Producers booth during the 2023 Iowa State Fair at the Iowa State Fair Grounds on Saturday. Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post

Lawyers for Donald Trump said Thursday that it will take them years to prepare to defend the former president against allegations that he criminally conspired to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election, asking a judge to hold his trial in April 2026, long after he finishes running in next year’s presidential election.

In a 16-page filing, attorney Gregory Singer argued for the defense team that putting Trump on trial as requested by prosecutors on Jan. 2, 2024, on charges of plotting to undermine the federal government, obstruct the certification of the 2020 presidential election and disenfranchise voters would mark a “rush to trial” that would violate his constitutional rights and be “flatly impossible” given the enormity of the government’s evidence.

“The public interest lies in justice and [a] fair trial, not a rush to judgment. Moreover, if the rights to due process and counsel are to mean anything, a defendant must have adequate time to defend himself,” Singer wrote.

Trump’s lawyers urged U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan to wait until fall 2024 to hear major legal challenges to the unprecedented indictment of a former president for conduct committed while in office, and of a major-party presidential candidate amid a campaign: “This case is not just complex or unusual. It is terra incognita,” Singer wrote.

Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, pleaded not guilty in Washington on Aug. 3 to the four counts against him in the case, teeing up a potentially historic federal criminal courtroom showdown that will pose legal and political challenges for the American courts, federal prosecutors and presidential candidates alike.


Looming over the fight is the 2024 election calendar, the Justice Department’s insistence that Trump can receive “both a fair and speedy trial” before next year’s primary season hits full swing, and Trump’s desire to delay a trial until after the election, when he or another Republican might drop the prosecution, should Trump or that person be elected president. The trial calendar for Trump’s varying federal and local investigations also will complicate scheduling. Just this week, Trump and 18 others were criminally charged in Georgia in connection with efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in the state, with the prosecutor there proposing a March trial date.

Chutkan has said she wants to set a trial date at her next scheduled hearing, Aug. 28. And at an initial hearing last week, she warned Trump and his lawyers against out-of-court statements that could be seen as intimidating or harassing potential witnesses or prejudicing potential jurors, saying that she “will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings” and that the more “inflammatory statements” there are, “the greater the urgency” will be to go to trial.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecutors asked last week that the trial begin immediately after New Year’s Day, 13 days before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Gaston estimated the government’s case would take no longer than four to six weeks, or until mid-February, by which time voters in only two states – Iowa and Nevada – would have taken part in the Republican nominating events.

“Trial in this case is clearly a matter of public importance, which merits in favor of a prompt resolution,” Gaston wrote in a court filing, adding, “It is difficult to imagine a public interest stronger than the one in this case, in which the defendant – the former president of the United States” – is accused of scheming to subvert an election and depriving citizens of the right to have their votes counted.

But in moving quickly to turn over evidence as required to help the defense prepare its case, prosecutors revealed that the first batch alone consisted of 11.6 million documents or pages – not counting a hard drive of recovered electronic-device information impossible to paginate.

Trump’s defense cited the “enormity” of discovery as one massive hurdle to a trial, saying the defense would need to review 99,762 pages per day to finish the government’s initial production by Dec. 11, its proposed date for jury selection – the equivalent of 78 copies of Tolstoy’s War and Peace – in total a tower of paper more than eight times as tall as the Washington Monument if printed out and stacked.


“The government’s proposal . . . is flatly impossible,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “No defendant can reasonably review nearly 100,000 pages of discovery per day.”

They also cited scheduling conflicts with Trump’s other pending legal problems, the need to address classified evidence, and Trump’s right to seek evidence from others and probe gaps in the government’s case, amassed through interviews of hundreds of witnesses and more than 40 search warrants. By comparison, Singer argued that only half of cases charged under the main federal conspiracy count lodged against Trump are completed in less than about 2½ years – many times longer than the government’s proposal schedule.

“Without doubt, the public has an interest in the prompt resolution of this case; however, as the Speedy Trial Act recognizes, that interest must yield to the public and the defendant’s overriding interest in a just proceeding. The Proposed Schedule allows President Trump to defend himself fairly. The government’s proposal does not.”

Trump’s defense echoes its unsuccessful approach in a separate special counsel prosecution in Florida in which U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon split the difference between prosecutors’ request for a December date and Trump’s defense request for one after the 2024 campaign, setting trial for Trump in May 2024 on charges of mishandling classified evidence and obstruction after leaving office.

Trump also faces a new defamation trial in January by a writer who won a sexual abuse lawsuit against him in Manhattan, an unrelated criminal trial in March and a civil trial, also in New York, scheduled to begin in October, over fraud allegations leveled by the state’s attorney general.

“We have to face the fact we are in uncharted waters here, where we have a defendant running for office, and the opposing administration is bringing criminal charges against him,” defense attorney John Lauro argued last week against Chutkan’s intention of limiting what Trump can say publicly about the evidence in his case. “President Trump has [to have] the ability to respond fairly to political opponents” and not campaign under a “chill.”

Trump himself weighed in, saying, “The trials should be after the election. Because this is just election interference,” and claiming that his indictment was “set up” by his main political opponent, Biden.

Whatever trial date Chutkan sets will be a starting point and not necessarily set in stone, as dates can and often do slip to accommodate delays caused by such factors as the emergence of new evidence, the addition of charges or defendants, or legal arguments and appeals, which might crop up in a case that is plowing new legal ground.

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