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Donald Trump’s legal team has pushed back against the US government’s drive for a “speedy trial” over this week’s historic charges that the former president conspired to subvert the 2020 election.
In comments that signalled Trump’s desire to slow proceedings — possibly until after next year’s presidential contest — John Lauro, one of his lawyers, rejected any suggestion of taking the case to court in a matter of months.
“The Biden justice department has had three years to investigate this. To take president Trump to trial in 90 days, of course, is absurd,” Lauro said on Wednesday, a day after federal prosecutors indicted Trump on four criminal charges related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election result.
“Right now [prosecutors] want to go to trial so that instead of debating the issues against Joe Biden, that president Trump is sitting in a courtroom — how is that justice?” Lauro told NBC’s Today show, in a reference to a possible repeat Biden-Trump presidential contest next year.
“We’re entitled to understand what the charges are” and “do our own investigation”, he said.
The Department of Justice said it would respond in court.
On Tuesday special counsel Jack Smith, who has led the investigation, laid out the charges against Trump, which included “conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to disenfranchise voters and conspiring and attempting to obstruct an official proceeding”.
He added that the January 6 2021 assault on the US Congress was “fuelled by lies” from Trump about the 2020 result and said the Department of Justice would seek “a speedy trial so that our evidence can be tested in court”.
Smith’s language was borrowed from a defendant’s legal right to a speedy trial, which under federal statute must begin within 70 days from the day an indictment is filed.
Trump remains far ahead of his rivals in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
He already faces federal criminal charges over the handling of classified documents, and state charges over alleged hush money payments made to the porn star Stormy Daniels in the run-up to the 2016 election.
Trump has sought to delay other legal proceedings until after the 2024 presidential election, petitioning the judge in the classified documents case to delay the start of that trial until after the poll. US federal judge Aileen Cannon has now set the start for May 2024, a date in between those sought by the DoJ and Trump’s legal team.
Referring to his latest indictment, Trump said in a post on his Truth Social network on Wednesday that he had “never had so much support on anything before”. He attacked the “unprecedented indictment of a former (highly successful!) president and the leading candidate, by far, in both Republican party and the 2024 general election”.
According to the indictment, six co-conspirators joined Trump’s “criminal efforts” to overturn the results of the 2020 polls. The unnamed individuals include attorneys, a DoJ official and a political consultant.
The DoJ alleged Trump and his co-conspirators arranged for fake representatives from seven states, including Pennsylvania and Georgia, to cast votes in the electoral college.
The DoJ’s new case is seen as one of the most serious legal challenges faced by Trump. It is the second set of charges brought by Smith, who was appointed by US attorney-general Merrick Garland to oversee probes involving the ex-president.
A further legal hurdle looms in the state of Georgia, where a special grand jury has been investigating alleged interference by the ex-president and others in the 2020 polls. If Fani Willis, district attorney for Fulton County, decides to bring charges in the separate case, they are widely expected to materialise later in the summer.