Donald Trump court hearing: What are the next steps in the case against the former US president?
It is unclear when exactly Donald Trump’s trial will take place, and it could be months before there is another formal hearing in the case. Indeed, there is no guarantee that a trial will be held before November’s elections, when the 76 year-old hopes to become the only president tasked with serving non-consecutive terms.
There are numerous formalities that will follow Tuesday’s headline-making events at Manhattan Criminal Courthouse that will be positively dull by comparison. The judge and the legal teams will set a date for the next hearing in the pre-trial schedule to discuss additional steps. Typically, these span issues such as matters of fact and law. There will also be talks around the process of discovery, in which the district attorney's office and Mr Trump's legal representatives exchange information about witnesses and evidence.
One likely development is Mr Trump’s lawyers will attempt to have the court dismiss the case outright. They may, for example, challenge whether the charges against him were brought within the statute of limitations. One of the former president’s attorneys, Joe Tacopina, has already said they will be “making a lot of motions” in the case. “I don’t think this case is going to see a jury,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday morning. “I think it’s going to go away on papers.”
Regardless of how, and when, the case plays out, there is nothing to prevent Mr Trump from continuing to pursue re-election, and nothing to prevent him from re-entering the White House if he succeeds. The only restrictions on presidential eligibility in the US, as laid down by the constitution, are citizenship, residency, and age – the latter, for the avoidance of doubt, is a lower, not upper limit. There is no bar against someone who has been indicted, let alone convicted, of a crime.
A more pressing question, at least for American democracy, is whether the proceedings will impact on Mr Trump’s campaign. The case has widened already polarised views in a nation where the political climate remains volatile. Many conservatives believe he is being held to a different standard of justice; many liberals stress the importance of holding everyone accountable. Some of Mr Trump’s staunchest supporters argue the case puts him in his favoured position as the dominant figure in the US news cycle. Others question the logistical repercussions of a would-be president trying to combine the gruelling demands of a political campaign with a trial.
The early signs suggest there may be some merit in the theory that Mr Trump’s legal woes have galvanised his support. A poll released on Monday by Reuters and Ipsos showed he had widened his lead over rivals in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, up from 44 per cent in mid March to 48 per cent. The latest poll was carried out after news emerged of Mr Trump’s indictment.
Whatever transpires in court over the weeks and months ahead will have an even wider impact. For Mr Trump, and America, his legal difficulties and political ambitions are now inextricably linked.
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