Before the end of the month, the federal judge overseeing Donald Trump’s election obstruction case is expected to set a start date for the former president’s trial.
Legal experts say neither the special counsel nor Trump’s attorneys are likely to get their desired result, while noting that the case could still go to trial before next year’s presidential election.
Federal prosecutors want to see the trial underway within three months, while a lawyer for Trump has suggested a three-year preparation period would be more appropriate.
“The answer will lie somewhere between those two dates,” said NBC News legal analyst Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor.
U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who was randomly chosen to preside over the case, said she’ll set a trial date on Aug. 28, the first hearing she’ll oversee in the proceedings.
The judge’s proclamation is “a sure sign this is going to be on an accelerated track,” said Glenn Kirschner, another former federal prosecutor and NBC News legal analyst.
Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. Attorney, said, “Can it be done before the November election? Absolutely. Will it be done? I don’t know.”
At Trump’s arraignment Thursday, on charges that included conspiracy to defraud the United States, prosecutor Thomas Windom told Magistrate Judge Moxila A. Upadhyaya that the case “will benefit from normal order, including a speedy trial.”
Under the federal Speedy Trial Act, that would mean going to trial within 70 days of the arraignment, a proposition Trump attorney John Lauro said was “absurd.”
“In a case of this magnitude, there might be a massive amount of discovery and information that we would have to look through,” Lauro told the judge on Thursday.
“In order to have an understanding of length of trial and also the time to prepare, what we would need from the government is an understanding of the magnitude of discovery; the amount of electronic data that we would be expected to look through; the amount of hard copy documents that might be in existence; but most importantly, the degree to which there’s exculpatory information on behalf of the President,” he said.
A source familiar with the former president’s legal strategy said that his lawyers will likely file a motion to move the trial out of Washington, D.C. The source said that filing would be made “not right away but down the road.”
Trump said on his social media platform Truth Social that he hoped the trial would be moved to “an impartial” venue, and cited West Virginia as a possibility.
McQuade said she expects Trump’s legal team to make numerous motions in an effort to delay the trial.
“The strategy now is to try to delay and try the case in the media” while he continues his run for the office prosecutors said he tried to steal, McQuade said.
While Lauro didn’t offer a timeframe at the arraignment for when he thought the case should go to trial, he sketched out a timeline during an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “TODAY” on Wednesday, the day after Trump was indicted.
Lauro declined to say whether the case should go to trial ahead of the 2024 election, but argued that special counsel Jack Smith’s office has had “three-and-a-half years” to investigate the case.
“Why don’t we make it equal? The bottom line is that they have 60 federal agents working on this. Sixty lawyers, all kinds of government personnel, and we get this indictment and they want to go to trial in 90 days. Does that sound like justice to you?”
Smith was named special counsel in November. It’s unclear when the Justice Department began investigating Trump’s conduct in the case, but the Capitol riot that led to a delay in the certification of the Electoral College vote was on Jan. 6, 2021 — two and half years ago.
Kirschner said Lauro’s extra-time argument doesn’t jibe with judicial practices.
“It doesn’t work that way,” he said. “There’s no rule of parity. Sometimes it takes 20 years to solve a crime. It doesn’t mean you then get 20 years to put together a defense.”
During the arraignment, Windom addressed Lauro’s concerns about the “massive” amount of discovery from prosecutors that Trump’s team would need to examine before trial. “The government is prepared, as soon as a protective order is entered in this case, to produce a substantial volume of discovery, including discovery that we are not obligated at this time to turn over,” he said.
“We will endeavor to get that to the defense very, very quickly,” Windom told the judge.
Upadhyaya ordered both sides to submit court filings to Chutkan with “your proposal as to a trial date” before the Aug. 28 hearing.
Rosenberg said one important factor will be Trump’s “busy trial schedule.” He already has five trials scheduled between now and May of 2024 — three civil cases and two criminal trials, including an indictment brought forth by the special counsel alleging Trump mishandled sensitive national security information and then tried to cover it up in Florida after leaving office.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in that case, which is scheduled to go to trial on May 20th. He’s also facing 34 counts of felony falsification of business records in New York. He pleaded not guilty in the case as well, with a trial date set for March 25.
“The window is closing because there are two trials already set for 2024 and not much time between the May trial and the November election,” Rosenberg said.
Another complication for Trump is the political calendar — the primary season officially begins on Jan. 15 with the Iowa caucuses.
Kirschner said it’s possible the election case could push back the New York case, and go to trial before the documents case.
“State prosecutors are almost always happy to take a back seat the the feds because they have an obscenely high conviction rate,” Kirschner said, adding that the election charges are weightier than the ones in New York. The election case would also take precedence over the three civil trials Trump has pending, Kirschner said.
McQuade said it could make sense for the election case to go to trial before the documents case, even though the documents case was filed first.
“I think this case is logistically simpler than the documents case” given the “classification complexities” in the Florida case, McQuade said, referring to the need for lawyers to get security clearances to review the evidence, and the arduous procedure over how to present that evidence to a jury.
Kirschner said he expects Chutkan to move the election case forward efficiently. “Judge Chutkan don’t play,” he said.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com