Trump's Georgia trial must wait until 2029 if he's re-elected, lawyer argues

Steve Sadow, attorney for Donald Trump, right, speaks in Superior Court of Fulton County before Judge Scott McAfee as part of the Georgia election indictments on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023 in Atlanta. (John David Mercer/USA Today via AP, Pool)

Former President Donald Trump’s lawyer says his client should not go to trial in Georgia before the 2024 election.

Steve Sadow, in his courtroom debut as Trump’s lead Georgia counsel, urged Fulton Superior Judge Scott McAfee to delay setting a date.

“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.”

Sadow appeared Friday alongside lawyers for several co-defendants in the sweeping Georgia election interference case to argue various pre-trial motions to dismiss charges.

Trump is facing 13 felony counts for allegedly conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia.

Fulton County prosecutors have asked McAfee to start trial on Aug. 5, 2024. An August trial would allow for delays in Trump’s two federal trials, which are already scheduled for March and May. 

However, prosecutors estimate that trying this sweeping racketeering case will take several months, meaning Trump would be on trial in Fulton County at the height of the 2024 presidential election.

“The district attorney has made it clear that she has no interest in interfering or getting involved with this presidential election,” special prosecutor Nathan Wade told the judge. “Her sole focus is to move this case forward.”

Sadow also told the judge that if Trump wins the election, he believes the president couldn’t be tried until after he leaves office. That means Trump would not face trial in Georgia until 2029.

Other defendants, though, do not want to see their case drag on for years. That raises the question of severance — whether or not all remaining 15 co-defendants should be tried together, as prosecutors want.

“You have indicated in the past that you thought there would be a severance and that could affect who goes to trial when,” said attorney Don Samuel, who is representing defendant Ray Smith.

“My initial thought was that the state would be able to choose an A league and a B league,” McAfee responded. “I don’t think I’m willing to say definitively that all 15, if that’s who are left come the trial date, that no, ifs ands or buts, they’re all joined together.”

McAfee told the parties that he isn’t inclined to set a trial date at this point.

“That wouldn’t be unrealistic in a normal multi-defendant case,” McAfee said. “But obviously there are a lot of unique variables at play here, so I don’t know if that’s something we can determine six months in advance.”

Prosecutors said they could be ready to go to trial within 30 days of a date being set. 

McAfee said he will take up the schedule further in the new year.