US proposes January start for Trump election trial

US president Donald Trump is reflected as he departs after speaking about the 2020 US presidential election results in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, US, 5 November, 2020Reuters file photo

US prosecutors on Thursday asked a federal judge to begin former President Donald Trump's trial on charges of trying to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden on 2 January, 2024. 

That date would have the trial get under way just two weeks before the first votes are cast in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, a race in which Trump is the front-runner. 

US Special Counsel Jack Smith's office asked a judge in a court filing on Thursday to start the trial on Jan. 2 in part due to the public's interest in a speedy trial. 

Smith's office said that interest is "of particular significance here, where the defendant, a former president, is charged with conspiring to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election, obstruct the certification of the election results, and discount citizens’ legitimate votes." 

A spokesperson for Trump said Smith and the Justice Department "are blatantly playing political games," citing Trump's status as a front-runner in the 2024 election. 

Trump himself said on his Truth Social platform that any trial should be held after the 2024 US elections. Such a date would potentially give him the power to end his prosecution if he were to become president again. 

"Such a trial ...... should only happen, if at all, AFTER THE ELECTION," Trump said in a post on Thursday. 

Prosecutors also predicted it will take about four to six weeks to put forward the bulk of their case against Trump at trial. 

Trump last week pleaded not guilty to charges over the alleged election conspiracy. 

Smith's office said it is prepared to turn over to Trump by the end of August most of the evidence it intends to use at trial in a process known as discovery. 

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, who is presiding over the election case, is set to hold a Friday hearing on how that evidence may be handled by Trump and his defense team. 

Prosecutors also said there is a "minimal" amount of classified information involved in the election case, and asked Chutkan to address that issue at a previously scheduled 28 August hearing. 

A January trial would have Trump on trial three times in the first half of 2024. 

He will go to trial in March over New York state charges that he falsified documents in connection with hush money payments to a porn star. Trump also faces a May trial from Smith in southern Florida over the retention of classified documents after leaving office.