Thursday marked the third occasion that former President Trump was arraigned on criminal charges this year, and the hearing in the 2020 election interference case 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.
Key prosecutors make their public debut: Thursday marked the public debut of the Smith team that will handle the election subversion prosecution. (Some of the special counsel lawyers who are leading the classified documents case were previously involved in the public proceedings stemming from the lawsuit Trump filed last year challenging the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago).
Smith himself attended the hearing, as he did for Trump’s first appearance in the classified documents case in Florida earlier this year. As the courtroom waited for the hearing to start, Smith and Trump occasionally looked over at one another – Smith looking towards Trump more often than Trump looked over to him.
Windom – who moved from the US attorney’s office in Maryland to play a central role in the federal election subversion investigation, spoke on behalf of the government Thursday. Also at the prosecutors’ table was Molly Gaston, an alum of the DC US attorney’s public integrity section, which handles some of the most politically sensitive cases for the Justice Department.
Gaston was a lead prosecutor on last year’s contempt of Congress case against ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and also worked on the prosecutions of Rick Gates – a former Trump campaign aide – and Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman. Gaston was also present in the courtroom Tuesday when the foreperson of the grand jury for the 2020 election probe returned the indictment against Trump.
CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz, Holmes Lybrand and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.