Trump Trials: Awaiting appeals court ruling and more courtroom antics

A courtroom sketch depicts E. Jean Carroll being questioned in a redirect by her lawyer Roberta Kaplan as Donald Trump's lawyer Alina Habba objects before Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan federal court Thursday. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)
6 min

Welcome back to The Trump Trials, our weekly wrap-up of the many criminal and civil cases the 45th president is fighting in federal and state courts.

Last week, we saw Donald Trump have outbursts in a New York courtroom. And this week, well, we may see it all over again as Trump could take the stand in the defamation case against him brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

Have questions on the upcoming trials? Email us at and and check for answers in future newsletters.

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What’s ahead

Trump has signaled he will take the stand on Monday in the New York civil trial over defamatory comments he made about Carroll in 2019 after she came forward with a decades-old sexual assault allegation. But similar plans to testify in other cases turned out to be head fakes. In a previous trial, Trump was found liable for defamation — it’s now up to a jury to decide how much more, if anything, he owes Carroll in damages. (Check out the Nerd Word below for more on that.)

We’re watching for an appeals court decision on Trump’s claim that he’s immune from prosecution for actions he took while in office — immunity that would even cover “events that ‘cross the line,’” he is claiming on social media.

Separately, we’re awaiting a plaintiffs’ brief in the Colorado ballot case now before the Supreme Court, in which Trump is seeking to overturn a decision barring him from the ballot because of his actions before and during Jan. 6, 2021.

Here’s a recap of last week’s action in Trump’s four criminal cases.

Georgia: State case on 2020 election

The details: Trump faces 13 state charges for allegedly trying to undo the election results in that state. Four of Trump’s 18 co-defendants have pleaded guilty.

Planned trial date: None yet

What happened last week: Things got messy in the Peach State. A filing to dismiss the case by former Trump campaign aide and co-defendant Mike Roman contained explosive, albeit vague, allegations that District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) mishandled public money and engaged in an improper relationship with a special prosecutor she hired to work on the case.

D.C.: Federal case on 2020 election

The details: Four counts related to conspiring to obstruct the 2020 election results.

Planned trial date: March 4

What happened: Pretrial proceedings are frozen in the case while Trump’s immunity appeal plays out. But special counsel Jack Smith has continued to file motions, and Trump’s team has called those filings inappropriate and urged Judge Tanya S. Chutkan to hold prosecutors in contempt.

  • The judge responded this week and split the baby, so to speak. She said there is nothing that prohibits prosecutors from filing motions but ordered that they ask permission from the court before doing so. More significantly, her order suggested that the March 4 trial date could be delayed.

Florida: Federal classified documents case

The details: Trump faces 40 federal charges over accusations that he kept top-secret government documents at Mar-a-Lago — his home and private club — and thwarted government demands to return them.

Planned trial date: May 20

What happened: Trump’s lawyers revealed defenses they may use in the case. That includes trying to prove that prosecutors and the Biden administration communicated with each other, which the defense lawyers say could show that the indictment was politically motivated. Lawyers also may try to show that Trump’s retention of the materials did no real damage to national security — and that Trump retained some high-level clearance long after he left the White House.

  • The strategies were disclosed in a “motion to compel,” in which Trump’s lawyers asked Judge Aileen M. Cannon to force prosecutors to hand over more evidence in the case.

New York: State hush money case

The details: 34 charges connected to a 2016 hush money payment.

Planned trial date: March 25

Last week: The case was dark. All eyes were on the federal civil defamation trial.

Nerd word of the week

Punitive damages: At civil trials, courts decide whether, and how much, to award in compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are payments to the injured party for the harm they suffered and the costs of that harm. Punitive damages are meant to punish financially the person who did the harm. In the defamation trial now underway in New York, a key question will be what punitive damages are levied against the former president. The amount of punitive damages has to be proportional to the amount of compensatory damages.

Question time

Q: How can Trump keep appealing lower-court decisions before he has even gone on trial? Does that give him an advantage that regular defendants don’t get?

A: In general, defendants can only appeal most issues after a verdict is reached. But there are rare exceptions, including issues involving immunity, as we explain here. In Trump’s case, there is not clear Supreme Court guidance on whether he has immunity for acts while he was president, or if his impeachment acquittal in 2021 gives him double-jeopardy protection from criminal charges.