Former U.S. President Donald Trump will be facing two vastly different pools of possible jurors and judges with divergent views when he goes on trial in Washington, accused of illegally orchestrating an attempt to upend his 2020 election loss, and in Florida for allegedly trying to hoard classified national security documents.
Trump was indicted by Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith on Tuesday in the Washington case, and Trump is set to make his first court appearance on Thursday afternoon.
A federal court grand jury handed up a four-count indictment alleging that Trump conspired to defraud the United States to stay in power even though he knew he had lost his reelection bid to Democrat Joe Biden and then helped foment the January 6, 2021, riot of Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to block lawmakers from certifying the election outcome.
Jurors do not necessarily decide criminal cases the way they voted in elections, but when the case goes to trial — and that could be months from now — Trump will face a pool of would-be jurors, all residents of Washington, the national capital, who voted against him 92% to 5% in the 2020 election.
In the southern state of Florida, where Trump lives at his oceanside Mar-a-Lago estate in the winter months, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has indicated she is likely to hold the classified documents case Smith filed against Trump at the courthouse where she normally presides, in Fort Pierce, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of the resort city of Miami.
If the trial is in Fort Pierce, jurors would be chosen from a list of voters in five counties, four of which handed Trump more than 60% of their votes in the 2020 election, while he eked out a slim majority in the fifth county.
The two federal judges overseeing the cases have already issued rulings for and against Trump.
Cannon, a Trump appointee to the federal bench in the waning days of his presidency, was randomly picked to oversee the classified documents case. Last year, she appointed a special master Trump sought, over the protests of Smith’s prosecutors, to review documents seized from Mar-a-Lago, which at the time delayed the government’s investigation.
The government appealed her decision and an appellate court rebuked Cannon, ruling that she had no right to name the special master.
More recently, when Smith sought to start the classified documents trial in December and Trump’s lawyers wanted to push it past the 2024 election, Cannon pretty much split the difference, ordering the trial to start in May 2024.
In Washington, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, nominated to the federal bench by former Democratic President Barack Obama, was randomly selected to oversee the case accusing Trump of election interference to stay in power.
Smith alleged that Trump knew he had lost but continued to make false claims that he had been cheated out of another four-year term in the White House and then tried to keep Congress from certifying that Biden had won, resulting in the mayhem at the Capitol on January 6 two years ago.
A specially appointed committee in the House of Representatives examined the riot at length in public hearings last year, and Chutkan played a role in the committee’s evidence gathering.
Trump sought to block release of documents sought by the committee by asserting executive privilege over the material, even though he was no longer president and Biden had cleared the way for the National Archives to turn over the papers. Chutkan ruled that Trump could not claim that his privilege “exists in perpetuity.”
Chutkan notably wrote, “Presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president.”
Chutkan is one of two dozen federal judges in Washington who have overseen the cases of rioters charged with offenses for their roles in the January 6 rampage at the Capitol building.
She has sentenced all 38 defendants convicted in her court to prison terms, ranging from 10 days to more than five years. In four of the cases, prosecutors weren’t seeking any jail time at all.
“It has to be made clear that trying to violently overthrow the government, trying to stop the peaceful transition of power and assaulting law enforcement officers in that effort is going to be met with absolutely certain punishment,” she said at one sentencing.
Source : VOA News