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Trump’s legal cases: here, there and everywhere

Former president Donald Trump.Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Former president Donald Trump sped in and out of the federal courthouse in Fort Pierce, Fla., on Monday for a closed-door hearing in the case accusing him of illegally holding on to classified documents after he left office.

In Washington, the Supreme Court received a filing from him involving his last-ditch efforts to claim immunity from separate charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election.

The judge in Georgia overseeing the case accusing Trump of seeking to overturn his election loss in that state will hold a hearing Thursday about whether to disqualify the district attorney who filed the charges.

And in New York, two proceedings related to Trump were set to take place later in the week on two consecutive days, in two different courthouses, just two blocks from each other, with major implications for both him and his real estate business.

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For much of the past year, Trump has been ensnared in a web of legal cases so tangled that it almost defies comprehension. This week’s calendar is perhaps the most crowded yet.

The panoply of proceedings amounts to a test of the judicial system’s capacity to handle a range of criminal and civil accusations against a once and potentially future president fairly and efficiently, against the backdrop of a campaign in which he has made his treatment a central issue.

The logistics alone are daunting, with Trump facing four criminal trials in four cities, plus several civil cases, even as he campaigns to return to the White House.

No single person or authority is coordinating the arrangements, as this week makes clear. The task has seemed at times as if competing air traffic controllers have been trying to land several different airplanes on the same runway with a hurricane blowing in.

Each new development has ripple effects, and several cases could reach inflection points this week, with possibly profound but as yet unknowable implications for his broader legal standing and the future of his presidential bid.

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Complicating matters even further, Trump has hardly shied away from his legal travails, opting instead to make the proceedings something akin to campaign events.

Flying in the face of the normal rules of politics, his courthouse woes haven’t seemed to harm him or his electoral ambitions, but appear instead to have only boosted his standing with his followers.

He has frequently appeared in court, spouting talking points and assailing the array of legal cases he is facing as one collective “witch hunt” purposefully designed to damage his standing in the polls. In turn, he has also used actual campaign events to describe his prosecutions as partisan acts of persecution.

And at least so far, he has succeeded, managing to wrest political gain out of playing up, not playing down, the efforts to use the courts to hold him accountable. Still, opinion surveys have suggested that his popularity with voters could seriously suffer if any of the criminal cases he is facing results in a conviction.

Part of the reason for the complexity of the various proceedings is that Trump has relentlessly sought to postpone his trials until after the election in November.

Indeed, this strategy of delay was front and center in the petition his lawyers filed to the Supreme Court on Monday.

As a technical matter, Trump asked the court to extend a pause in his election interference case in Washington as the justices consider a novel question: whether he should be immune from prosecution on the underlying charges, which arose from actions he took while he was president.

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But winning the immunity claim on its merits is not his only goal. Trump is also hoping his Supreme Court appeal will take enough time that it will be impossible to try him on the election charges until after Election Day.

It remains unclear when the court will lay out its plans for taking on or rejecting the immunity appeal. But its decision could arrive within days of another ruling by the justices that will help decide Trump’s future: whether he should be disqualified from the ballot in Colorado for helping stoke the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

And its ultimate decision on the question of immunity will determine whether Trump goes to trial in the election case this spring, this summer, or in 2025. It is also likely to have an effect on the timing of at least one of his other criminal cases.

On Thursday, at one of the two hearings in state courts in New York, Justice Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the case accusing Trump of being involved in hush money payments to a porn star, could decide to proceed to trial, as originally planned, on March 25.

While that would allow the election trial to start in Washington later in the year, Merchan will probably have to make his decision without a crucial piece of information: the Supreme Court’s schedule on the immunity appeal, which will be instrumental in determining when the federal election trial will start in the first place.

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The other hearing in New York this week will not present a threat to Trump’s liberty, but it could severely damage his wallet.

At the hearing, which is scheduled for Friday, Justice Arthur Engoron is expected to deliver a decision about whether to strip Trump of control of his company, the Trump Organization, after having found him liable for business fraud.

Trump’s aides have said he might attend the hearing, as he has attended others in the case. But if he does, he will not be able to show up at a different hearing scheduled for that same day in a different case in a different state: one that concerns the disqualification of the district attorney, Fani Willi, from the racketeering case he is facing in Georgia accusing him of conspiring to subvert the election in that state.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.