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Donald Trump trial on election day 2024? His lawyers call 'interference.' Georgia prosecutors call it 'business.'

In a freewheeling discussion Friday over picking a date for Donald Trump’s Georgia election racketeering trial, his lawyer argued there is little time to try the former president before the 2024 election − and the Republican frontrunner couldn’t be tried after then if he wins.

But prosecutors seeking an August start to the trial, which could anchor Trump behind the defense table on election day, denied the case would interfere with his ability to campaign.

Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee made no decision but raised prickly questions about how to schedule a trial as Trump campaigns again for the White House.

“I think that’s obviously something we’re going to be taking up in greater detail in the new year," McAfee said.

Flanked by his attorneys Chris Kise, left, and Alina Habba, former President Donald Trump waits to take the witness stand at New York Supreme Court on Nov. 6, 2023, in New York.
Flanked by his attorneys Chris Kise, left, and Alina Habba, former President Donald Trump waits to take the witness stand at New York Supreme Court on Nov. 6, 2023, in New York.

Trump and 14 remaining co-defendants are charged with conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Four co-defendants have pleaded guilty, but Trump and the rest have pleaded not guilty. Meanwhile, polls show Trump as the front-runner for the Republican nomination to challenge President Joe Biden.

Trump’s lawyer, Steven Sadow, said he faces a federal election conspiracy trial in March, a federal trial about national security documents in May and a New York trial over falsifying business records to make hush payments after that. Georgia prosecutors asked McAfee to start their trial Aug. 5, which could run five months.

“Can you imagine the notion of the Republican nominee for president not being able to campaign for the presidency because he is in some form or fashion in a courtroom defending himself?” Sadow asked. “That would be the most effective election interference in the history of the United States.”

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is focused on trying the case, not interfering in the election, according to prosecutor Nathan Wade.

“This trial does not constitute election interference,” Wade said. “This is moving forward with the business of Fulton County. I don’t think it in any way impedes defendant Trump’s ability to campaign or do whatever he needs to do to seek office.”

Judge Scott McAfee during a hearing Dec. 1, 2023, in Superior Court of Fulton County before in Courtroom 5A in the case of State of Georgia v. Donald Trump.
Judge Scott McAfee during a hearing Dec. 1, 2023, in Superior Court of Fulton County before in Courtroom 5A in the case of State of Georgia v. Donald Trump.

McAfee asked Sadow whether Trump would have a problem with an August trial if he wasn’t the GOP nominee and wasn’t on trial in New York. Sadow said if “by some strange occurrence” he wasn’t the nominee, “it changes perspective across the board.”

McAfee asked Sadow if Trump could be tried in Georgia if he wins the presidency. But Sadow argued the supremacy clause of the Constitution would prevent a trial while he was in office.

McAfee also questioned whether 15 defendants could be tried at once, given the crowd of lawyers at the hearing Friday. He suggested the possibility he could create an A team of eight defendants and B team of seven defendants to be tried separately. But Wade said 12 defendants have been tried at one time and 15 was possible.

Scheduling the trial is tricky because other defendants want a faster decision. John Eastman, a private lawyer for Trump charged with helping develop the strategy for recruiting fake presidential electors, wants a verdict sooner than 2025.

“There are a number of defendants who are not running for president of the United States,” said Buddy Parker, Eastman’s lawyer.

Steve Sadow, attorney for Donald Trump, right, speaks in Superior Court of Fulton County before Judge Scott McAfee as part of the Georgia election indictments on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023 in Atlanta.
Steve Sadow, attorney for Donald Trump, right, speaks in Superior Court of Fulton County before Judge Scott McAfee as part of the Georgia election indictments on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023 in Atlanta.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Georgia prosecutors, Donald Trump's lawyer wrangle over trial date