Trump lawyer tells Georgia judge that a trial before November would be election interference

If Donald Trump were to stand trial in Georgia next fall, it would amount to the “most effective election interference” in U.S. history, the former president’s attorney told the judge presiding over the criminal case at a hearing on Friday.

Trump attorney Steve Sadow, in arguing against the prosecution’s request for an August trial in the sprawling racketeering case against Trump and 14 co-defendants over allegations that they sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia, noted that his client could well be the Republican nominee by the start date proposed by the district attorney.

“Can you imagine the notion of the Republican nominee for president not being able to campaign for the presidency because he is in some form or fashion in a courtroom defending himself?” Sadow asked.

“That would be the most effective election interference in the history of the United States. I don’t think anybody wants to be in that position. I would hope the state would understand the Republicans believe he should be the nominee he should get the same fair chance to campaign in national politics as the Democratic nominee,” he told Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee.

Fulton County prosecutor Nathan Wade rejected that characterization.

“This is not election interference. This is moving forward with the business of Fulton County. I don’t think that it any way impedes defendant Trump’s ability to campaign or do whatever he needs to do in order to seek office,” Wade said, while also acknowledging to the judge that the trial would be expected to last at least four months — past Election Day if it were to start in August.

The judge asked Sadow if the DA would be able to try the case in 2025 if Trump were elected president next year.

“The answer to that is I believe that under the supremacy clause and his duties as president of the United States this trial would not take place at all until after he left his term in office,” Sadow said.

Pressed by the judge on whether he’d still have an objection to the August trial date if Trump were not the nominee, Sadow said that could change “perspective across the board,” but that another GOP nominee was highly unlikely given the polling in Trump’s favor.

McAfee did not set a trial date and said the issues raised Friday were “something we’re going to be taking up in great detail in the new year.”

Trump has pleaded not guilty in both the Georgia case and the federal election interference criminal case brought by special counsel Jack Smith in Washington, D.C.

Sadow said later during the hourslong court hearing that he wanted to subpoena Smith’s office for witness information that could be relevant in the Fulton County case, saying there “no doubt” it has information that’s “relevant and material” to his case. He said if they don’t get that information, it could lead to the charges being dismissed in Georgia.

Under questioning from the judge, attorney Donald Wakeford of the DA’s office did not dispute that his office has not been coordinating or sharing information with Smith’s office.

“This investigation, as the district attorney has made clear, is independent” from Trump investigations elsewhere, Wakeford said.

“To the extent it is being made our business, we intend to cooperate, but our position is quite simply we don’t have authority over the Department of Justice.”

Ken Dilanian

Ken Dilanian is the justice and intelligence correspondent for NBC News, based in Washington.

Diane Morales

Diane Morales is a producer for NBC News based in Miami, Florida.

Dareh Gregorian

Dareh Gregorian is a politics reporter for NBC News.

Daniel Barnes

contributed

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