Trump’s New York legal drama: What’s next
(The Hill) – Former President Trump’s arraignment on Tuesday kicked off months of proceedings that will stretch well into the 2024 campaign season.
Beyond learning the 34 felony charges Trump is accused of, the court proceedings also set the stage for the legal battles to come: deadlines for Trump’s attempt to dismiss the indictment, a trial date agreement and a battle over media access.
Here’s a look at what happens next in the case:
After their multi-year investigation, prosecutors in the coming days will begin providing the evidence they collected to Trump’s legal team.
Becky Mangold, a prosecutor in the district attorney’s Major Economic Crimes Bureau, at Tuesday’s arraignment indicated the documents would come in three stages.
First, she said prosecutors could provide within a week the stenographic grand jury minutes and notes of witness statements for those who appeared during the secret proceedings.
Second — comprising the bulk of the materials — the district attorney’s office will produce other witness documents, subpoena compliance information and other materials Mangold described as “odds and ends.” Those documents will be produced within 65 days of the arraignment, she said.
Finally, a possible third stage could include internal emails between district attorney employees and any remaining documents, although Mangold did not provide a timeline for those disclosures.
Before any documents are produced, however, both sides indicated they are hashing out an agreement on a protective order, which would place certain rules on the process.
Mangold said prosecutors want an order preventing Trump and his lawyers from using the produced materials for purposes other than preparing for the case, including providing them to the press or posting them on social media.
“A protective order is vital to preserve the sanctity of these proceedings,” Mangold said.
Susan Necheles, one of Trump’s attorneys, during the arraignment said, “we hope to reach an agreement,” although there appeared to be some outstanding issues, including what locations Trump would be able to view the produced documents.
Trump will try to dismiss
After discovery, Trump’s legal team is expected to attempt to dismiss the indictment. Both before and after Tuesday’s proceeding, Trump attorney Joe Tacopina publicly vowed to do so.
“We’re not going to get to a jury… I think this case is going to fall on its merits, on legal challenges well before we get to a jury,” he said on NBC’s “TODAY” show on Wednesday.
Under New York’s criminal procedure law, nine possible grounds exist for Trump to ask the judge to dismiss the case or to throw out specific counts.
Those grounds include arguing that prosecutors did not show legally sufficient evidence to the grand jury or that the charges had passed the statute of limitations. One of the other possible routes, known as a Clayton motion, allows the former president to seek dismissal by arguing it “is required in the interest of justice.”
In that scenario, the judge would be compelled to consider factors like any “exceptionally serious misconduct” of law enforcement, a dismissal’s impact on public confidence in the criminal justice system and the seriousness of the offense.
On Tuesday, Justice Juan Merchan set deadlines for the dismissal stage. Trump’s legal team has until Aug. 8 to file their motions, prosecutors’ response is due by Sept. 19 and Merchan set Trump’s next in-person court appearance on Dec. 4, when the judge will make his ruling.
If dismissal fails, case heads to trial
If Trump’s dismissal effort fails, the case will move toward trial.
Mangold said on Tuesday that prosecutors are hoping for a trial to begin in January 2024, arguing the case should move as expeditiously as possible given the massive public interest.
Trump attorney Todd Blanche responded by asserting that the former president wanted the case behind him but that he couldn’t agree to a trial date until discovery progresses.
“But certainly, we think that is a little bit aggressive,” he added.
Blanche said he was “speculating a bit,” but he suggested a trial could perhaps take place later in the spring, which would place it in the heat of the presidential primaries.
If convicted, Trump would ultimately have the ability to appeal the decision to a higher state court.
Battles over courtroom cameras, media access
With intense public interest in Trump’s case, debates over press access are poised to remain a recurring theme at every stage of the proceedings.
Merchan ahead of Tuesday’s arraignment denied a group of news organizations’ request to broadcast live video of the arraignment. But Merchan allowed still photographers to enter before the proceeding began, and they photographed Trump for three minutes before being ushered out of the room.
After Trump entered the courtroom and before the arraignment itself began, the judge held a conference about the media access issues.
A lawyer for the media organizations in part urged the judge to allow reporters to be able to use laptops at future appearances. Reporters inside the courthouse on Tuesday were forbidden from using any electronics or recording devices.
Merchan indicated that although he did not permit reporters to use laptops on Tuesday, that “does not mean” anything regarding access for future hearings. Merchan had granted a similar request when he presided over the Trump Organization criminal tax fraud trial last winter.