Trump trial in Georgia election case won’t happen in October, judge rules

Former U.S. President Donald Trump, who was arraigned on federal charges related to attempts to overturn his 2020 election defeat, faces reporters as he departs Washington at Reagan Washington National Airport in nearby Arlington, Virginia, U.S., August 3, 2023. 

Pool | Via Reuters

Former President Donald Trump will not head to trial next month alongside two of his co-defendants whose cases in the sweeping Georgia election interference case were severed by a judge Thursday.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee granted motions from Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell to sever their criminal cases from the 17 other co-defendants who have been indicted in Atlanta District Attorney Fani Willis’ probe.

But McAfee declined an effort by Chesebro and Powell to sever their cases from each other, meaning they are both set to head to the same trial on Oct. 23.

The ruling is a blow to Georgia prosecutors who wanted to keep all 19 co-defendants together in the case.

McAfee wrote in his order that severing Chesebro and Powell was “simply a procedural and logistical inevitability.”

“The Fulton County Courthouse simply contains no courtroom adequately large enough to hold all 19 defendants, their multiple attorneys and support staff, the sheriff’s deputies, court personnel, and the State’s prosecutorial team,” McAfee wrote.

Willis’ 41-count indictment charges all 19 defendants with violating Georgia’s racketeering law and other crimes as part of an illegal conspiracy to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia’s 2020 election.

Chesebro, an attorney alleged to have aided efforts to get fake slates electors to cast their votes for Trump, is charged with seven counts. Powell, the pro-Trump attorney, also faces seven counts, including two counts of conspiracy to commit election fraud.

Trump faces 13 counts in Georgia, one of four active criminal cases hanging over him as he runs for president again in 2024. All the defendants in Georgia have pleaded not guilty.

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Chesebro and Powell are the only two defendants who sought a speedy trial in Georgia. McAfee noted in Thursday’s order that if any other defendant demands a speedy trial before Oct. 23, they will immediately join Chesebro and Powell in the courtroom.

For Trump and the 16 other co-defendants, McAfee set a schedule requiring all motions to be filed by Dec. 1.

The judge has not yet set a trial date for them — though he noted that his court has “received assurances that other members of the Fulton County bench stand ready to begin a second trial within the November/December term.”

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