The 2024 election season may be defined by Trump’s legal troubles.
Former US President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom during his civil fraud trial at the New York Supreme Court on January 11, 2024, in New York City. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images Nicole Narea covers politics and society for Vox. She first joined Vox in 2019, and her work has also appeared in Politico, Washington Monthly, and the New Republic.
Donald Trump may have won the Iowa caucuses by a historic margin. The question, though, is whether he can sustain his momentum through a primary season — and then general election — interrupted by his many upcoming court dates.
The former president is fighting a multi-front legal war that has consumed millions of his campaign funds. There’s the Justice Department case concerning his attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 election on January 6, 2021, and the ongoing New York state court case in which he’s already been found liable for fraud for inflating the value of his businesses. And Colorado and Maine officials have ordered Trump removed from the ballot in 2024, subject to the approval of the US Supreme Court.
That’s not all of them: There’s also the federal case over his alleged mishandling of classified documents, the Georgia case about his interference in the 2020 election, and in New York, cases over hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign and E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case against him.
With some court dates still up in the air, it’s unlikely that most of these cases will be decided before the November election. Even if some are decided in the next few months, Trump’s campaign has been working with state and national Republican Party officials to ensure that any legal troubles closer to the GOP convention can’t derail his nomination. But any adverse decisions might hurt Trump in the general election; a series of four separate polls conducted in August found that most Americans supported the charges against Trump.
“Is it ratcheting a noose around his campaign or not?” said Dave Wilson, a GOP strategist based in South Carolina. “That’s the question that folks like Haley and DeSantis are trying to ask. Do you really want somebody who’s going to be potentially on trial or convicted going up against an already weakened Joe Biden?”
In the meantime, his court appearances might help him further cement his dominance in the GOP primary, where he is coasting with a more than 49 percentage point lead on average. Most Republican voters say he should remain the party’s nominee even if he’s convicted of a crime.
“It allows him to go to the states and say, ‘If they’re coming after me, they’re going to come after you,’” Wilson said. “Every appearance that Donald Trump makes in court is a visual reminder to his voters that he’s ‘fighting for them.’”
Here are the big dates on Trump’s political and legal calendar:
Trump made an appearance at the beginning of the second of two trials in the E. Jean Carroll case in New York.
A Manhattan federal jury already found last year that he had sexually abused her in 1996, but not raped her, as well as defamed her, in a separate case she had filed concerning public statements he made about her in 2022. (She was already awarded $5 million in damages in that case.)
Now, there is a second case concerning statements he made in 2019. In this case, a Manhattan federal court has already found Trump liable for defaming Carroll based on his 2019 comments claiming that she was lying when she accused him of raping her.
What’s being litigated now is how much he has to pay Carroll for that defamation. A jury has been selected, and the trial, which Trump is not required to attend in its entirety, is expected to last three to five days. Carroll is seeking $10 million in damages.
Trump may testify in the Carroll case. The judge in the case has limited what he might be able to say: He cannot claim that did not rape or sexually assault Carroll, doubt her motives, or accuse her of lying.
New Hampshire Republican primary
By the end of the month, the New York State Court of Appeals is aiming to issue a written decision in the civil fraud case concerning Trump’s inflating the value of his businesses. Though the court has already found him liable for fraud and ordered the dissolution of his New York business licenses, what’s still left to be decided is what kind of financial penalties Trump may face; New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking $250 million. Trump will likely appeal whatever final decision is reached.
Nevada Republican primary
Oral arguments are scheduled in the Supreme Court case Trump v. Anderson over Trump’s removal from the ballot in Colorado. The Colorado electors who sought his removal have argued that his incitement of the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol constituted a violation of his presidential oath to uphold the US Constitution under the 14th Amendment, disqualifying him from running for office. The case will likely determine the outcome of the ballot challenges Trump is facing in dozens of other states.
Trump is expected to attend a hearing in the hush money case concerning Stormy Daniels — in which Trump is accused of 34 felony counts of falsifying business documents — that will determine whether the case will be dismissed and when the trial date will be discussed. It may be delayed to allow the DOJ’s 2020 election case to go first.
South Carolina Republican primary
Michigan Republican primary
The trial in the DOJ’s 2020 election case was scheduled to start on this date, but it has been put on hold while Trump appeals a decision to the DC Circuit over whether he has legal immunity for acts committed while he was president. The appeals court has agreed to fast-track that appeal, but it’s unclear if it will reach a resolution in time for the scheduled trial on March 4.
Super Tuesday primaries, including the Colorado and Maine primaries. Trump’s appearance on the ballot in those states will depend on what the Supreme Court rules.
The trial in the hush money case is currently slated to begin on March 25, but it could be subject to change depending on how the DOJ’s 2020 election case proceeds.
The federal trial in the case concerning Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents that he kept at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after he left the White House is scheduled to begin on this date. He is charged with 32 counts of violating the Espionage Act, six counts of obstruction, and two counts of making false statements.
Republican National Convention
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has proposed the trial in the Georgia 2020 election case begins on this date. Willis has argued that the Trump campaign was at the center of a criminal enterprise and that many of the 19 individuals named in the case helped assist in the organization’s attempt to overturn the Georgia 2020 election results. Establishing that Trump and his allies were part of an enterprise — a person, group, or business engaged in legal or illegal behavior — is key to Willis’s assertion that the defendants violated Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.