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The latest on Trump's trials

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

This week, we could get a better sense of timing for the trials looming for former President Donald Trump. In Georgia, New York, Florida, as well as here in Washington, D.C., key decisions are up in the air for four cases against him. We're joined now by NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro, who's here to get us up to speed on what we need to know about these cases. Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, Juana. Thanks for having me.

SUMMERS: Thanks for being here. OK, I want to start in Georgia, where former President Trump's team wants to disqualify the prosecutor and the election interference case against him in that state. A judge set a hearing for Thursday. What impact could that have on the case as well as the timeline there?

MONTANARO: Yeah, I mean, this could have a big effect on when or if the trial happens at all. If the prosecutor, Fani Willis, is disqualified, it could throw a wrench into this whole case. I mean, a new prosecutor would have to be appointed, if one is appointed at all. You know, defense attorneys said Willis was in a romantic relationship with one of the prosecutors working for her, Nathan Wade. Willis acknowledged the relationship, and the defense lawyers claimed it's a conflict of interest - that she had financially benefited from this. Basically, they argue that because Wade was being paid by the DA's office and sometimes paid for them to go on vacation, too, then that's the financial benefit. He says that's ridiculous, and sometimes she paid, too.

Look, the point of all of this, though, is that it's become really muddy in a case that had been seen as one of the strongest against Trump because, remember, he's on tape saying that he wanted to, quote, "find votes" to overturn the results of the election there.

SUMMERS: Right. And in the state of New York, there is another state criminal case, and we might get a timetable there, too. If you could, just remind us what that case involves and what is at stake there.

MONTANARO: This is the case involving hush money to an adult film actress, Stormy Daniels, and a former Playboy Playmate, Karen McDougal, wanting them to stay silent about alleged affairs Trump had with them. What the state is charging him with, essentially, is falsifying business records to cover up those payments. We haven't heard much about this case for months, but the judge could set a trial date this week. It's currently scheduled for March 25, so we'll see if that holds or if it gets delayed. And Trump's lawyer says Trump is planning to show up at the courthouse in New York on Thursday. And we know every time he does that, he doesn't go quietly, either in court or outside, and makes it political.

And these two state cases are important because even if Trump wins the presidency again, he's not going to be able to dismiss these cases in the way that he could try to dismiss the federal ones by putting pressure on the head of the Justice Department, for example.

SUMMERS: OK, let's turn to those federal cases now. The former president is facing criminal charges related to the January 6 insurrection and then separately for taking and then not returning classified documents. Remind us, if you can, what's been happening there.

MONTANARO: Yeah. Well, in Florida, the judge in that case held a hearing on Monday about what kind of access the defense would have to classified material. And that's part of what makes this case complicated - is that it's about classified documents, and there are some very sensitive issues involved with that. This week, the hearing was about how much of that material Trump's team can have access to in preparation for trial.

Another question is whether the government's witness list can be made public. The prosecution says that they're nervous about witnesses being threatened, for example. This case has just gotten held up by all kinds of motions and pushback from both sides. That means the current court date of May 20, for when a trial is supposed to start, could very well be pushed back, too, which is part of the Trump legal strategy which I call the three Ds - dismiss, delay, distract.

SUMMERS: OK, and as far as the January 6 case goes, the Supreme Court has a big decision looming about whether that one even goes forward at all, if I understand correctly.

MONTANARO: Right. And, you know, Trump's team has had a lot of success with trying to delay things, as we said. But this case - the January 6 insurrection case - he took a pretty big blow last week because a three-judge panel unanimously said that he does not have immunity from prosecution for actions taken while he was president. Trump then appealed that to the Supreme Court yesterday. His defense team went straight to politics on this in their filing, saying, quote, "a monthslong criminal trial of President Trump at the height of election season will radically disrupt President Trump's ability to campaign against President Biden." If the Supreme Court rules against him - if it doesn't take up the case or agrees with the lower court - then that means we could actually see a trial before people go to the polls in November.

SUMMERS: NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thank you.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF POST MALONE SONG, "CHEMICAL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.