Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday that Donald Trump’s upcoming trial in the special counsel’s election interference case and other mounting legal woes will kill the Republican Party’s chances of winning the 2024 race for the White House if the former president becomes the GOP nominee.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the election interference case in federal court, set a trial date for March 4 — the eve of Super Tuesday, when the largest number of states have primaries.
Christie, who is running against Trump in a crowded GOP field for the presidential nomination, warned in an interview Tuesday on “Morning Joe” that the timing of that trial and others in three separate criminal cases against the former president would work against the Republican Party, noting Trump could be sitting in court in the special counsel’s election case for potentially six weeks or more starting on starting March 4 instead of being out on the campaign trail, which “Republicans should be doing every day.”
“We simply cannot expect that someone who is facing this number of criminal trials, and, quite frankly, the conduct that underlies those charges, can be a viable fall election candidate against Joe Biden,” Christie said. “And if we lose to Joe Biden, Republicans need to understand that we’re going to be looking at a packed Supreme Court, we’re going to be looking at the end of the filibuster, and a number of other issues that folks like me and the rest of the folks in our party can’t have.”
Christie concluded that the March 4 trial date for Trump “just makes it even clearer that he cannot be our nominee. If he is, we’re going to lose the election.”
Chutkan’s decision came after she heard arguments Monday from Trump’s lawyers and federal prosecutors about when the case should be set for trial. Special counsel Jack Smith proposed that the trial start in January, with jury selection beginning this December, while Trump’s team said the trial should be pushed back until April 2026, after the presidential election. Chutkan said that while the special counsel’s proposed date was too soon, Trump’s proposal of 2026 was not reasonable.
Christie, a former Trump ally who emerged as a frequent critic of his after breaking with his false claims of election fraud, was asked about his reaction to the timing of Trump’s trial.
Noting his work as a former prosecutor for seven years, Christie said Trump’s election interference case is “relatively straightforward.”
“It’s just one defendant. It’s essentially four charges,” he said. “And the idea that they have another six months to prepare for trial would be a normal situation in the district of New Jersey, and I think in probably almost any federal district of any size in the country. And usually, you know, this is the way these cases work.”
Christie said he is “not surprised by the date,” before going on to criticize the proposal from Trump’s team to delay the trial until 2026.
“I thought the 2026 request was ridiculous,” he said. “And when your lawyers go in and make requests like that in front of a judge that they patently know is just ridiculous, it doesn’t curry you any favor with the judge in terms of the seriousness of the arguments you make.”
He added: “So, I think it was a bad, strategic move. I’m convinced it was driven by the client, not by the lawyers, as most of the bad decisions on the Trump legal team are driven by. And now they’ve got a March 4th date.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When proposing to begin the trial in April 2026, Trump’s lawyers cited the large amount of discovery in the case, as well as Trump’s ongoing legal issues in other jurisdictions.
After Chutkan set the March trial date, Trump posted on Truth Social that he would appeal the trial date decision, saying it comes “smack in the middle of Crooked Joe Biden’s Political Opponent’s campaign against him. Election Interference!” But orders setting trial dates are not appealable, according to NBC News legal analyst Chuck Rosenberg. The trial start date could still move because of other litigation in the case, however.
A federal grand jury in Washington this month indicted Trump on four charges in the special counsel’s probe: conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction, and conspiracy against the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted. Trump pleaded not guilty at his arraignment hearing earlier this month.