Ex-US attorney thinks Trump may “fire” his lawyer after “thoroughly unprofessional” court stunt

Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected Trump's 2026 trial date after twice warning attorney John Lauro to calm down

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published August 28, 2023 4:01PM (EDT)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport after being booked at the Fulton County jail on August 24, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport after being booked at the Fulton County jail on August 24, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Monday scheduled the trial in former President Donald Trump's election subversion case for March 4, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Jury selection in the trial is set to begin on March 4, under Chutkan's schedule, commencing one day before Super Tuesday, as NBC reported. Though Chutkan argued the trial lead-up period would be a sufficient amount of time for the ex-president's defense team to prepare themselves, attorney John Lauro opposed the date, saying he does not feel he can adequately defend Trump in that amount of time. Lauro and co-counsel Todd Blanche had previously requested that Chutkan set the trial for April 2026, which the judge called "far beyond what is necessary."

Lauro during the Monday hearing argued that there was no way he could be ready for the trial without years of preparation, according to Politico, which noted the staggering amount of evidence special counsel Jack Smith's team of prosecutors has already assembled and shared with Trump's lawyers: "12.8 million pages or files, drawn from grand jury interviews, the National Archives, the House Jan. 6 select committee's evidence and Trump's campaign and PACs."

"This is an enormous, overwhelming task," Lauro said, also stating that he has begun drafting a number of motions in an effort to see Trump's case diminished or altogether dismissed. 

The attorney went on to accuse the federal government of putting on a "show trial," claiming that he intends to file a specific motion alleging that the Justice Department is targeting Trump because he is a political adversary of President Joe Biden. 

"This man's liberty and life is at stake," Lauro said. "He's no different than any American."

Lauro also vowed to file a motion contending that Trump possesses "'executive privilege" for his effort to subvert the 2020 election, as well as motions that will seek to dismiss each of Trump's charges.

Politico noted that Chutkan "sympathized" with Lauro's undeniable "burden" in preparing for the trial; however, she was also twice forced to ask the attorney to "take the temperature down" after Lauro raised his voice to harangue against the "outrage to justice" he saw as Smith's expedited trial proposal of Jan 2, 2024. 

The judge added that Trump would be treated the same as any other defendant and that she would not show him "more or less deference." Trump's political obligations and campaigning, Chutkan emphasized, would not play a part in her decision-making process. 

"Setting a trial date does not depend and should not depend on the defendant's personal and professional obligations," she said. "Mr. Trump, like any defendant, will have to make the trial date work regardless of his schedule."

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Trump on Truth Social vowed to appeal the judge's ruling but former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti pointed out that a judge's scheduling order is not subject to appeal.

Lauro after the ruling told Chutkan that while the legal team would abide by the schedule, "the trial date will deny President Trump the opportunity to have effective assistance of counsel."

"This talk by Trump's attorney, is meant to set up a potential motion to attack the verdict later — and make the judge think twice about pushing the trial forward quickly. The March trial date set by the judge will make it extremely hard for Trump's team to push past the election," Mariotti tweeted

The former prosecutor added that Lauro's "heated outburst attacking Judge Chutkan would have a big downside."

"But [Lauro] has calculated that she is ruling against them anyway, so he is putting on a big show for his client (Trump) and trying to set up a public narrative that he is being railroaded," he wrote.

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Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who served on special counsel Bob Mueller's team, criticized Lauro's complaint about the trial date as a "thoroughly unprofessional statement."

"Chutkan hearing could've been worse for Trump, but I'm not sure how," wrote former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman. "She called his lawyers misleading, obviously took their proposal as a stunt, and set a trial date about as early as she might have. Does [T]rump now fire Lauro?"

"I'm all for zealous defense of a client but if you're already being warned not once but twice by a federal judge (who used to be a criminal defense attorney) to calm down, maybe, just maybe, you should rethink your approach," wrote national security attorney Bradley Moss.

"It is now entirely possible Donald Trump takes the stage at the RNC in Summer 2024 having been convicted not once but twice in federal court," he added.

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Donald Trump Jack Smith January 6 John Lauro Politics Tanya Chutkan Todd Blanche