A judge has given Donald Trump an unexpected boost in his controversial bid to reclaim the White House – by indefinitely postponing his trial for election tampering.
In a dramatic intervention late on Friday, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan officially set aside the former President’s trial date of March 4 and did not immediately set a new one.
This means 77-year-old Mr Trump can mount an uninterrupted run in his campaign against sole surviving rival Nikki Haley to become the Republican presidential nominee in November’s election.
In a written order, Judge Chutkan said she was delaying the trial until after another federal court hears a pending appeal by Mr Trump.
His legal team claim he is immune from prosecution for actions he took in the White House.
As well as the Washington DC case, brought by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, the billionaire businessman is facing three other trials – in New York, Florida and Georgia – involving a total of 91 felony counts.
Only one of these is likely to proceed imminently – the case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in connection with alleged “hush money” payments made by Mr Trump to porn actress Stormy Daniels before he was elected President in 2016.
Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld an earlier gag order placed on the Republican front-runner by Judge Chutkan that restricts him from publicly criticising witnesses and prosecutors in the Washington DC case.
Mr Trump has already entered pleas of not guilty to four felony counts accusing him of conspiring to hinder the counting and certification of votes in his 2020 defeat by Democrat rival Joe Biden.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments this week about if he should be removed from the presidential ballot – if he wins, as expected, his party’s nomination – for “engaging in an insurrection” on January 6, 2021.
The court’s nine justices will debate whether Mr Trump can be barred from running for President again under a provision of the 14th Amendment that forbids officials from holding office if they take part in an insurrection against the United States.