Trump election interference case: What happens next?

Former US president has pleaded not guilty to charges, but case could affect his 2024 re-election campaign. Here’s how.

Former US President Donald Trump arrives at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport for his latest arraignment on August 3, 2023 [Alex Brandon/AP Photo]

Former United States President Donald Trump has again appeared in a criminal court where he pleaded not guilty this week to federal charges related to his efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election.

The case is widely considered the most significant of three active criminal proceedings against the Republican politician, who is again running for president.

He also faces state charges in New York related to a hush-money payment and a federal case in Florida related to allegations he mishandled classified documents.

Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing, remains the top Republican contender in the 2024 presidential nomination race, and the election case is expected to create further scheduling headaches as the break-neck GOP primary season approaches.

Here’s what happens next in Trump’s election interference case:

Hurry up and wait

After several days of high drama after the latest indictment was made public and Trump appeared at his arraignment on Thursday in the US capital, the proceedings are set to take a far more procedural turn.

The judge assigned to the case is expected to set a schedule for pretrial motions and discovery, a process that can take months as prosecutors hand over documents and other evidence to defence lawyers.

A flurry of legal wrangling is also all but assured during this period as prosecutors and Trump’s defence team will likely argue over what evidence may be used in the trial, potential requests to change the location and date of the proceedings, and any motions to dismiss some or all of the charges.

The case will typically then move into jury selection before the trial begins in earnest.

Speedy trial or slow roll?

A trial date has not yet been set although the first pretrial hearing in the case is scheduled for 10am (14:00 GMT) in Washington, DC, on August 28.

The timing of the trial is likely to be a point of contention.

The federal prosecution, as it did in Trump’s documents case, has promised to seek a “speedy trial”.

Several legal experts have said the fact that US prosecutors chose not to bring charges against six unnamed co-conspirators in the election case also signifies they are hoping for as few slowdowns as possible.

“This keeps it pretty streamlined,” Christopher Ott, a former federal prosecutor, told The Associated Press news agency.

“All of those motions by defendants affect all of the defendants, including Trump. It would slow things down. If you don’t name and charge them, you don’t have that trouble.”

Trump’s legal team, meanwhile, is expected to try to delay the trial.

In the federal case related to Trump’s handling of classified documents, the former president’s lawyers have argued that Trump could not receive a fair trial until after an election. The judge did end up delaying the trial, but only until May, six months before next year’s general election.

Will the latest indictment affect Trump’s 2024 chances?

The first two criminal cases against Trump saw the president’s popularity among Republicans increase. And the most recent indictment is not expected to harm – and could possibly further boost – the former president’s standing in the Republican primaries.

A recent poll by Morning Consult found that 76 percent of Republicans disapprove of the most recent indictment against Trump.

A New York Times/Siena College poll released on Monday also showed Trump with 54 percent support among likely GOP primary voters, compared with 17 percent for his closest challenger, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

If he wins the Republican nomination and becomes the party’s candidate, Trump’s prospects in the presidential election in light of the charges are less clear.

The Morning Consult poll found that 52 percent of US voters approve of the latest indictment. Meanwhile, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that the same percentage of Republicans said they would not vote for Trump if he were convicted or in prison on Election Day.

Under the US Constitution, Trump may still run for president and be elected even if he is convicted. The country has never faced that scenario before, however.

Will the trials affect his campaigning?

The scheduling of Trump’s trials will have a significant impact on his campaign because he will be required to appear in person for what could be lengthy proceedings in each case.

His latest trial will have to work around the other two ongoing cases.

A possible indictment in Georgia, where state authorities are investigating whether Trump committed a crime in pressuring local officials to alter the 2020 vote count in the state, also could further complicate scheduling.

Trump’s New York trial is set to begin in March and the classified documents case is scheduled to start two months later.

Both already threaten to tie Trump up during the GOP primary season, when Republican Party members in states across the US will vote on who their nominee will be in the general election.

A surge in one state has been known to boost lagging candidates and could spell trouble for the former president.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies