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Calendar of chaos: How Trump’s trial dates and the Republican primaries will intertwine

Ex-president Donald Trump is supposed to face at least four trials while campaigning in 2024   (AFP/Getty)
Ex-president Donald Trump is supposed to face at least four trials while campaigning in 2024 (AFP/Getty)

In a typical presidential election year, candidates will spend the 11 months leading up to Election Day shaking hands and kissing babies at rallies as the primaries unfold.

But nothing is typical when it comes to Donald Trump.

Instead, the ex-president will be forced to juggle his campaign for the White House while also defending himself in federal and state courts in four different trials that are currently set to occur between January and May.

Kicking off with E Jean Carroll’s damages trial on the same day as the Iowa Caucus to his federal classified documents trial one month before the GOP convention, Mr Trump’s jam-packed schedule seemingly leaves little time for him to socialise outside of a courtroom.

How Mr Trump will manage his campaign while convincing voters he’s innocent of it all – including alleged efforts to overturn previous elections in his favour – remains to be seen.

What does Donald Trump’s calendar look like?

15 January – E Jean Carroll damages trial begins and Iowa caucus

The start of election season will kick off with yet another trial against writer E Jean Carroll. This time, the case will determine how much Mr Trump owes Ms Carroll in damages for making defamatory statements after she accused him of sexual abuse.

But while Mr Trump’s legal team hashes it out in a New York City civil courtroom, voters in Iowa will be conducting the first-in-the-nation caucus the same day.

Not only does the Iowa caucus set the tone for the primaries, it can be an indicator as to who GOP voters are leaning toward. So far, Mr Trump is polling ahead of his rivals in Iowa though he has spent considerably less time in the state than others.

After the Iowa caucus, six other states will have their primaries or caucuses leading up to Mr Trump’s first federal election trial.

E Jean Carroll (center) leaves a Manhattan courthouse after a jury found Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s on 9 May 2023 in New York City (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
E Jean Carroll (center) leaves a Manhattan courthouse after a jury found Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s on 9 May 2023 in New York City (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

4 March 2024 – Federal election interference trial begins

In Washington DC, Mr Trump’s first federal criminal trial for his alleged involvement in trying to overturn the 2020 election results and subsequent January 6 insurrection is set to begin.

The ex-president is charged with conspiracy to defraud the US, obstruction and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights for his alleged part in fuelling the attack on the Capitol with false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

5 March – Super Tuesday

One day after Mr Trump’s federal election interference trial kicks off is Super Tuesday – the day when most states hold their primaries.

The first Tuesday in March is a pivotal day for candidates as the results provide strong insight as to who Republican voters are leaning toward.

After Super Tuesday, 10 other states will have their primary or caucus until Mr Trump’s criminal case in New York begins at the end of March.

25 March 2024 – Hush-money payment trial begins

Earlier this year, Mr Trump became the first sitting or former president to be criminally indicted after being charged with 34 counts pertaining to falsifying business records in Manhattan criminal court.

The charges stem from an investigation by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg that alleges Mr Trump tried to cover up hush money payments that he made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in 2016 to silence her claims of an extramarital affair.

Though the case is set for March, it is more than likely going to be delayed until after the election so federal prosecutors as well as Mr Trump and his legal team can focus on the federal election interference trial.

Former President Donald Trump sits at the defense table with his legal team in a Manhattan court, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in New York (AP)
Former President Donald Trump sits at the defense table with his legal team in a Manhattan court, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in New York (AP)

20 May 2024 – Federal classified documents trial begins

Ten other states will have conducted their primaries by the time Mr Trump is expected back in federal court, this time in Florida, to face 40 charges pertaining to his alleged mishandling of sensitive government documents.

Federal prosecutors indicted Mr Trump in June for allegedly unlawfully retaining top-secret documents that contained national security information at his Mar-a-Lago home after he left office.

The charges include violating a section of the Espionage Act for allegedly unlawfully retaining top-secret documents that contained national security information.

The trial is set to begin less than two months before the GOP convention in July.

15-18 July, GOP convention

After the remaining states conduct their primaries, the Republican Party will host its convention where it will announce an official nominee.

At the moment, Mr Trump is leading the polls but depending on how next year plays out, he may not become the party’s nominee.

5 November – Election Day

On Tuesday, 5 November, US voters will head to the polls to cast their vote for president.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 (Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 (Getty Images)

How will this affect Donald Trump?

Glancing over Mr Trump’s calendar, it may seem like his ability to successfully campaign is virtually impossible. But the ex-president has positioned himself to benefit from his trials.

“In a weird way, none of this really bothers him. In fact, it’s a great asset for him politically,” Kevin O’Brien, a partner at Ford O’Brien Landy LLP and former assistant US attorney, told The Independent.

Mr Trump has capitalised on his trials by painting himself as a victim – or martyr as Mr O’Brien points out – to appeal to his supporters.

After each indictment, the ex-president’s campaign has called on supporters to express their outrage through their wallets. Splashed across his website, Truth Social posts and emails is Mr Trump’s new slogan: “They’re not after me, they’re after you… I’m just standing in the way.”

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump begin arriving at the Monument Arena on September 08, 2023 in Rapid City, South Dakota (Getty Images)
Supporters of Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump begin arriving at the Monument Arena on September 08, 2023 in Rapid City, South Dakota (Getty Images)

Even though some of the trials raise questions about Mr Trump’s ability to lead the country successfully – like his classified documents case and the federal election interference case – his former job and loyal fan base reinforce his ability to be president.

“He can always argue, and he will argue up until the day of the election, this is all unfair and he wasn’t able to campaign effectively because of all these persecutions from Garland and Biden,” Mr O’Brien said.

But the likelihood that Mr Trump will actually have to juggle three criminal trials and a campaign at the same time is still unclear. Though the judges in each case have set start dates, they can be changed – and according to Mr O’Brien, they likely will.

Mr O’Brien said the three trials are “not feasible” because they require massive time and resources from both the prosecutors and Mr Trump’s legal team.

“It’s terribly unfair to the defence,” Mr O’Brien said. “It takes months and months to prepare for one of these large white-collar cases, he only has so much manpower at his disposal.”

Already, Mr Trump’s legal team has sought to delay the trials by using every legal motion possible.

Most likely, two of the trials against Mr Trump will need to be delayed until after the election. Prosecutors may choose to go forward with the strongest case against the ex-president which appears to be the federal election interference case.

“Those issues are important for voters, it’s important to know how he intends to defend himself against what appears to be a pretty serious constitutional and criminal offence,” Mr O’Brien said.

Mr O’Brien suggested the case could take two to three months to be completed which would mean the trial could conclude shortly before the GOP convention.

Even if it’s the only case Mr Trump is trailed in before the election, there’s no telling how the outcome will change voters, and the Republican Party, perception of the former president.