Donald Trump’s first lawyer and reviled early mentor, Roy Cohn, famously observed: “Don’t tell me what the law is, tell me who the judge is.” While Cohn was reportedly referring to the corruption then existing in the New York state judiciary, the quote only minimally overstates the courtroom reality even in today’s most ethical and respected courts of law—who the judge is generally is key to the outcome.
That insight was reinforced this morning in when Judge Tanya Chutkan, the federal judge presiding over the indictment charging the former president with seeking to overturn the 2020 election, set a trial date of March 4, 2024—some two years earlier than the April 2026 date requested by attorneys for the former president.
Although the schedule creates near-impossible realities for Team Trump, as noted below, there is no realistic appeal, despite the former president’s immediate threat to do so. As a former federal law clerk in the same D.C. District Court, and a federal prosecutor and white-collar defense lawyer for the decades that followed, I can report that there is nothing more sacred to a federal judge than his or her courtroom calendar. Absent unusual elements that do not exist in this case, the date selected by Judge Chutkan will be changed only if she says so.
With that in mind, let’s address a few of the painful realities that the March 2024 trial date creates for Donald Trump. [Continue reading…]