OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The federal judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s federal election interference case has ordered the trial to begin on March 4, 2024.
The decision was made after a courtroom argument between Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team and Trump’s attorneys about when the case should go to trial. According to a filing made earlier this month by Smith, bringing Trump to trial by January 2 would “vindicate the public’s strong interest” in a quick trial.
Trump’s attorneys, on the other hand, asked Judge Tanya Chutkan, the federal judge in charge of the case, to set the trial date for April of 2026, which is more than two and a half years from now. This request was made in part because of the length of time they claimed they would need to review the substantial amount of discovery evidence the government had provided in the case, ABC News reported.
A growing number of legal experts on the left and right are coming to Trump’s defense after Smith filed felony charges against the former president over alleged actions stemming from the Capitol riot.
In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Georgetown Law School professor Jonathan Turley suggested that the Biden administration’s ongoing persecution of Trump is wearing thin with a sizeable portion of the American public that increasingly sees the cases as entirely political.
Trump was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights, the last charge stemming from a law passed circa 1900 that applied mostly to obstructing travel on highways, according to reports.
“This is a free speech-killing indictment. There’s no way around it. I write a great deal in academia in the free-speech area, and I have rarely seen a more chilling filing by the Department of Justice,” Turley said.
“The question that people have to ask themselves is, when is the price too high? People are enraged, but what is the price too high to bag Donald Trump? This indictment is a prohibitive cost. Meaning what they are attempting to do is criminalize what they consider to be disinformation,” he added.
“And I have to tell you, this indictment is a really sad moment for me. I hoped that Smith is going to indict on January 6th, that he would find unassailable evidence and unquestioned legal authority. He has neither in this indictment,” Turley added.
“This is a speaking indictment but it doesn’t say very much. It just says that we think Trump is lying and that he didn’t believe this. I can’t tell you how faciously ridiculous this claim is. It starts by saying, of course, you can say false things in the campaign, but then says that Trump knew they were false. Is that the test going forward in terms of criminalizing political speech?” Turley continued.
“Smith is just not only going to have to just bulldoze through the First Amendment, he’s going to have to bulldoze through a line of cases by the Supreme Court,” he said.
Meanwhile, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz dropped a bombshell during an interview on Wednesday, telling Fox Business Network host and former Trump administration economic adviser Larry Kudlow that Smith is leaving himself open to prosecution.
“You know the worst thing about this indictment, under the terms of this indictment, Jack Smith can be indicted. Let me explain to you why,” Dershowitz said. “The statute says the following, two or more persons conspire to injure and deny somebody the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured him by the constitution.
“What if a court ultimately ruled that Donald Trump had a right under the First Amendment to make his Jan. 6 speech and to do what he did? Then Jack Smith will have conspired to deny him of that right. That’s how serious this is,” Dershowitz said.
“Jack Smith … deliberately, willfully and maliciously leaves out the words that President Trump spoke on Jan. 6 in his terrible speech, which I disagree with, but what he said was, ‘I want you to assemble peacefully and patriotically,’” Dershowitz noted further (see below).
“Jack [Smith] leaves that out. That is a lie, a lie, an omission lie, and if you’re going to indict somebody for telling lies, don’t tell lies in the indictment,” Dershowitz continued. “If you’re going to indict somebody for denying people their constitutional rights, don’t deny them their constitutional rights by indicting them for free speech. That’s how hypocritical this is.”
“The Supreme Court has said in an opinion by Chief Justice [William] Rehnquist … under the First Amendment there is no such thing as a false opinion or a false idea. The response to a false idea is the marketplace of ideas or Election Day,” Dershowitz explained further.
“So you’re right, this is a very, very dangerous indictment, dangerous to the First Amendment and also dangerous to the Sixth Amendment because it directly goes after Trump’s lawyers, names them as unindicted coconspirators without giving their names, but says they’re criminals for giving him advice on how to challenge the election,” he said.