August 3, 2023 Trump arraignment, not guilty plea

Court sketch of moment Donald Trump plead "not guilty," with special counsel Jack Smith seen on the far left.
Court sketch of moment Donald Trump plead “not guilty,” with special counsel Jack Smith seen on the far left. Sketch by Bill Hennessy

Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty in a Washington, DC, federal courthouse Thursday to federal criminal charges stemming from his plots to overturn the 2020 election, in a 27-minute proceeding where the first flashes of the defense’s tactics emerged.

It was the third occasion that Trump was arraigned on criminal charges this year, and the hearing marked the public debut of the team of lawyers in special counsel Jack Smith’s office who will be leading the prosecution.

Here are key takeaways from the hearing:

Conflicts about the case schedule are emerging: In the classified documents case that Smith has also brought against the former president in June, the Trump team has sought to slow-walk the schedule for the proceedings. There were hints of a similar strategy in the first hearing in the election subversion case.

Much of Thursday’s hearing was staid and to-script. But the tone sharpened when the judge said the prosecutors should file recommendations for the trial date and length in seven days, and that the Trump team should respond within seven days after that.

Trump attorney John Lauro told the judge that they would need to look at the amount of evidence they’ll be receiving from the government — which he said could be “massive” — before they could address that question.

“There is no question in our mind, your honor, that Mr. Trump is entitled to a fair and just trial,” Lauro said, nodding both to Trump’s right to a speedy trial as well as his right to due process.

Prosecutor Thomas Windom previewed that the special counsel would propose this case unfolding under a normal timeline under the Speedy Trial Act, which sets a time limit —unless certain exemptions are sought — for criminal cases to go to trial.

Trump’s court and campaign calendar is growing crowded: There’s likely to be more added to the pile of legal problems on the former president’s plate.

In Georgia, in the coming weeks, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is expected to bring charges in her election subversion probe and it’s possible that Trump will be indicted in that.

And then there’s the other case from Smith alleging Trump mishandled classified documents from his White House and then obstructed the probe into the materials.

That case is currently scheduled to go to trial next May, and there will be regular pre-trial proceedings (at which, Trump is not required to appear) before that. There’s also the criminal case that Manhattan prosecutors brought against Trump for a 2016 campaign hush-money scheme, currently slated for trial in March.

This court calendar is overlaid against his 2024 campaign schedule as well. The first Republican presidential debate, for instance, is on August 23.

Read more takeaways here

CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz, Holmes Lybrand and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.


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