After Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis ambitiously requested a March 2024 trial date for her sweeping election conspiracy case against Donald Trump and 18 of his cronies, one of those co-defendants had an immediate request: sooner.
On Wednesday, lawyers for Kenneth Chesebro, who is specifically accused of masterminding the fake electors scheme, requested a speedy trial, as is his right by state law. Given a September arraignment, as requested by Willis, Chesebro would likely have to be tried by the end of the year, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Journal-Constitution likened Chesebro's request to the legal equivalent of "throwing a bomb into the case," suggesting Willis might have to try Chesebro separately from the other 18 defendants—a prosecutorial nightmare.
Game on, Chesebro. Willis called his bluff Thursday, filing a new request for the racketeering trial against all 19 defendants—including Trump—to begin on Oct. 23, 2023. From the word go, Willis insisted she was ready to pull the trigger on the entire case. The new filing stays true to her word. (New: Judge has set a date for Chesebro: October 23, 2023. Now begins the race among his co-defendants to splinter off.)
The chances of this gargantuan case, which stems from a two-year investigation, going to trial against all 19 defendants by October are roughly zero. But what matters from both a legal and political standpoint is the way Willis' case is already separating the interests of Trump's co-defendants from Trump himself.
And guess whose lawyers coughed up a response to Willis’ motion within hours of her October request? You got that right: Trump.
Trump is now seeking to sever his case from Chesebro's. Why? Because facing the music on either of these election conspiracy cases—federal or state-level—is a political nightmare for Trump. A man who surrenders and then spends weeks on end being silenced in a court of law while he is picked over by prosecutors and witnesses alike isn't alpha-male invincible. He's weak. And the Georgia case would have the amplifying factor of allowing Americans to watch for themselves as networks and online outlets across the country carry the courtroom drama live. It's O.J. redux on steroids.
That's why Trump has moved to sever his case not just from Chesebro, but "any other co-defendant" who makes good on their right to request a speedy trial in Georgia.
As Stanford Law School professor David Alan Sklansky intuited several weeks ago, "His whole thing is acting powerful, acting the big man, and you can't do that as a criminal defendant sitting in the courtroom while lots of other people talk about you. ... I think for him and his lawyers, the whole ballgame here is delay."
And for Willis, the whole ballgame is convincing Trump's co-defendants that the sooner they flee Trump's Titanic, the better.
Heckuva job, Chesebro.
Editor’s note: additional information added about Chesebro’s trial date.
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