The shape of the sprawling Fulton County, Georgia, trial against former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants began to emerge on Wednesday at the first televised hearing in the case since the indictment was filed last month.
The Fulton County district attorney’s office said it’s planned a four months-long trial, while defense attorneys for two of the defendants, pro-Trump lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, argued their cases should be severed from the other defendants.
The state judge presiding over Trump’s election subversion case, Scott McAfee, denied the motion for Chesebro and Powell — who have both filed to hold a speedy trial — to sever their cases from each other, but he was skeptical of the district attorney’s desire to hold a trial for all 19 defendants beginning next month.
Here are the key things to know from the first hearing:
Judge skeptical of timeline: McAfee expressed skepticism about Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ desire to hold a joint trial for all 19 defendants in October.
The judge has already set a trial date for Chesebro on October 23 after he made a speedy trial request under Georgia law, and Willis responded with a motion that all 19 defendants should be tried at the same time.
McAfee didn’t deny that motion — but he was dubious during Wednesday’s hearing.
The District Attorney’s office expects its case against the 19 defendants would take about four months, not including jury selection, and prosecutors expect to call more than 150 witnesses. McAfee, however, thought the timeline was very optimistic, saying, “it could easily be twice that,” given the multiple defendants in the case.
Judge denies bids to sever Powell from Chesebro: While McAfee suggested he would separate Powell and Chesebro from the other 17 defendants, he ruled from the bench Wednesday denying their motions to sever their cases from one another.
McAfee ruled that Powell and Chesebro will go to trial together on October 23.
“Based on what’s been presented today, I am not finding the severance for Mr. Cheseboro or Powell is necessary to achieve a fair determination of the guilt or innocence for either defendant in this case,” McAfee said.
Defendants point fingers at one another: The attorneys for Chesebro and Powell each took the same strategy during Wednesday’s hearing: distancing their client from the other co-defendants.
Manny Arora, who represents Chesebro, argued that his client had never met Powell and had never been to Coffee County, Georgia, where a breach of voting systems is part of the allegations in the indictment against Powell.
When Powell’s attorney, Brian Rafferty, spoke, he made the same point, saying Powell didn’t know Chesebro and had no involvement in the fake elector allegations against Chesebro. He argued that Powell was “not the driving force” behind the breach of voting machines.