Trump’s state prosecutions hit a key threshold on the same day in two cities.

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Two lawsuits that might challenge Donald Trump’s ability to stop prosecutions and perhaps reverse eventual convictions against him if he returns to the White House face important tests on Thursday, with enormous ramifications for the 2024 presidential election.

In the latest surprising twist in his numerous legal sagas, Trump is due to appear in court in New York for a procedural hearing ahead of his trial over a hush money payment to an adult film star prior to the 2016 election. Trump wants the case dismissed, but a judge might affirm Thursday that it will proceed at the end of March, marking the first time an ex-president and probable presidential nominee’s fate would be decided by a jury in a criminal case.
While Trump is in court in New York, he will be at the center of another drama in Georgia, where a judge is hearing evidence in an attempt to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and dismiss a massive racketeering case against Trump and his associates for attempting to undermine President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory in the swing state. Judge Scott McAfee has already stated that Willis may be disqualified if she benefited financially from a romantic relationship with a colleague she appointed as a prosecutor in the case.

The majority of Trump’s legal filings in various lawsuits have one thing in common: an attempt to prevent them from proceeding to trial and defer accountability – at least until the next election. Trump is particularly interested in stopping the New York hush money and Georgia election interference cases because, even as president with a sympathetic attorney general, he would find it difficult to intervene in ongoing prosecutions, overturn convictions, or even pardon himself because executive power does not extend to state crimes.
The high-stakes hearings, held roughly 900 miles apart, highlight the tremendous complexities of the 2024 race and Trump’s legal problem, which now spans multiple presidential elections. Thursday will not be the first time this week that the ex-president’s legal troubles have played out in two different locations. On Monday, for example, Trump appeared in court in Fort Pierce, Florida, for a hearing on his indictment for retaining classified documents, on the same day that his lawyers filed a filing with the US Supreme Court in Washington based on his broad demands for absolute presidential immunity to protect him from his actions following the 2020 election.

Trump’s state prosecutions hit a key threshold on the same day in two cities.

The former president delivered a furious speech in South Carolina Wednesday night ahead of the state’s primary later this month – before traveling to New York. “They’re weaponizing law enforcement for high level election interference — that’s what they’ve done,” he went on to say. “I am being indicted for you, never forget,” Trump urged his supporters. “I am delighted to be doing it.”

Just before Trump spoke, special counsel Jack Smith sent his response to Trump’s immunity claims to the Supreme Court, arguing that there was a vital public interest in seeing him tried — though, despite the accused’s claims of political persecution, Smith made no specific reference to the narrowing calendar before November’s election.

In another instance, a New York judge is due to rule on Friday whether Trump will have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for ill-gotten riches revealed in a civil fraud trial against the ex-president, his adult sons, and the Trump Organization. The verdict could limit Trump’s ability to conduct business in New York, the city where he built his reputation.

The legal and political collision that appears to be intensifying with each passing week makes it almost certain that the current election will have divisive, long-term consequences; however, Trump’s legal perils will end, deepening the country’s political estrangement and undermining trust in electoral and judicial institutions.

Trump has returned to the place where he first gained prominence.

The former president has a propensity of appearing in court and performing histrionics to display his contempt for the legal system and to characterize the prosecutions against him as political persecution, which is the major issue of his 2024 election campaign.

His presence has the ability to convert any sober court proceeding into a circus, and some judges have been enraged as they fight to keep him in check.

How a Trump conviction changes the 2024 race in our latest poll
Trump’s state prosecutions hit a key threshold on the same day in two cities.

In New York, Judge Juan Merchan is likely to hear the lawsuit’s final motions, including one filed by Trump’s lawyers to dismiss the case and confirm whether the trial’s existing start date of March 25 will hold.

Trump is facing 34 accusations for falsifying company records. He allegedly did so to conceal payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in order to prevent her from disclosing details about an alleged previous romance in a way that could influence voters. The former president, who denies the affair, has pleaded not guilty in this case, as he has in all four of his criminal prosecutions.

Some legal experts believe the New York case is the least severe of the four criminal threats confronting the former president, and even if convicted, he is unlikely to receive jail time. Others, however, regard the 2016 case as the beginning of Trump’s attempts to mislead voters and meddle with the conduct of US elections.

As the anticipated first criminal trial, the New York case may yet have significant political ramifications. So far, polling data and the outcomes of early Republican primary elections indicate that Trump’s indictments have helped rally the party’s grassroots voters behind his campaign. However, the impact of Trump’s legal difficulties on a larger electorate remains to be seen. Several recent polls have suggested that if he is convicted of a felony before Election Day, some people may reconsider voting for him.

A crucial sideshow to Trump’s racketeering trial will occur in Georgia.

McAfee is holding an evidentiary hearing in Georgia to investigate charges that Willis profited financially from a sexual relationship she had with special prosecutor Nathan Wade after hiring him.

“The issues at point here are whether a relationship existed, whether that relationship was romantic or non-romantic in nature, when it formed and whether it continues,” McAfee said in a Monday statement. “And that’s only relevant because it’s in combination with the question of the existence and extent of any benefit conveyed as a result of their relationship.”

One of Trump’s co-defendants, Michael Roman, claims that Willis and Wade gained considerably from the litigation at the expense of taxpayers, indicating a significant conflict of interest. He is using financial data from Wade’s divorce proceedings to claim that he took Willis on expensive vacations after she hired him. Roman is pushing for both Willis’ dismissal and the case to be dropped, claiming that it has called into doubt the legal system’s fairness and that the drama has soiled the entire prosecution.

However, the district attorney’s lawyer accuses Roman of attempting to divert attention away from the core matter. “The defense is not bringing you facts, the defense is not bringing you law, the defense is bringing you gossip,” Anna Cross, the defense counsel, told the court. “The court should not condone that practice.”

Trump’s state prosecutions hit a key threshold on the same day in two cities.

In an amicus brief submitted with the court, a collection of legal experts, former prosecutors, and law professors claimed that even if all of Willis’ claims are true, “they do not mandate disqualification here.” Indeed, they do not come close.”

Willis has claimed that the allegations are motivated by racism. “Is it that some will never see a Black man as qualified, no matter his achievements?” Willis stated last month at Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta, referring to Wade but not name him.

Speaking on CNN’s “This Morning” in January, Michael Moore, a former US Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, stated that the claims against Willis would not be “destructive” to the massive racketeering case against Trump and his co-accused. At the same time, a change in prosecutor may significantly delay the proceedings, which aligns with some of Trump’s interests.

According to CNN, Trump expressed an interest in attending Thursday’s Georgia hearing rather than the one in New York, but he was convinced that because he was personally affected by the latter case, he should be there.

If the judge in New York denies Trump’s dismissal request, the former president will almost certainly allege that he is being politically targeted. And if Willis is not dropped from the Georgia case, he will undoubtedly exploit the sheer existence of charges against her to claim that justice has been contaminated and that those attempting to hold him accountable are dishonest. This has not just the political impact of strengthening Trump’s attractiveness to supporters, who say he is a victim of witch hunts. It also reinforces his long-term efforts to establish a public narrative in which any future convictions against him are unjust.

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