All presidential campaigns have signs and most have debates, but 2024 is expected to be different because of something that has never happened before: a trial involving the leading Republican candidate. However, major questions remain as to whether a trial against former President Donald Trump will even happen this year.
For instance, Trump's blockbuster insurrection trial was slated to begin about a month from now on March 4. But a judge ruled last week that the trial was unable to go forward and no new start date was assigned.
One reason for that revolves around a separate case involving presidential immunity. The former president and his lawyers have been arguing in court that he shouldn't be charged with crimes because they claim presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.
That question is currently awaiting a ruling by the appeals court in Washington, D.C., but it's likely that the Supreme Court will eventually take up the case and issue its own opinion. Meanwhile, these court appeals take time and the 2024 presidential election is only getting closer.
Legal analysts have said it would be much easier for a federal judge to start a trial against the former president in March as opposed to a few weeks before the election, as the justice department has historically not wanted to take action that could influence an election. Ty Cobb is a former member of Trump's legal team and he told Scripps News that the longer these trials get pushed back, the less likely they are to happen this year.
"Any continuing delay does make it less likely that it gets tried in advance of the election," he said.
One place where a trial does look more likely is in New York City, where the Manhattan district attorney's business fraud case against the former president is scheduled to begin late next month. Since the case is at the local level and involved alleged hush money payments by Trump's campaign, the argument of presidential immunity is not as relevant.
One thing, though, is clear. All of the former president's cases are not only taking time, but they are also taking money.
Filings with the Federal Elections Commission show Trump's political action committees spent nearly $50 million on legal bills in 2023. Those costs are bound to rise as these cases drag out.
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