In the Georgia case, the question of whether to change the venue — a legal maneuver known as removal — matters because it would affect the composition of a jury. If the case stays in Fulton County, Ga., the jury will come from a bastion of Democratic politics where Mr. Trump was trounced in 2020. If the case is removed to federal court, the jury will be drawn from a 10-county region of Georgia that is more suburban and rural — and somewhat more Trump-friendly. Because it takes only one not-guilty vote to hang a jury, this modest advantage could prove to be a very big deal.
The coming fights over the proper venue for the case are only one strand of a complicated tangle of efforts being launched by a gaggle of defense lawyers now representing Mr. Trump and the 18 others named in the 98-page racketeering indictment. This week, the lawyers clogged both state and federal court dockets with motions that will also determine when the case begins.
Already, one defendant’s case is splitting off as a result. Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer who advised Mr. Trump after the 2020 election, has asked for a speedy trial, and the presiding state judge has agreed to it. His trial is now set to begin on Oct. 23. Another defendant, Sidney Powell, filed a similar motion on Friday, and a third, John Eastman, also plans to invoke his right to an early trial, according to one of his lawyers.
Soon after Mr. Chesebro set in motion the possibility of an October trial, Mr. Trump, obviously uncomfortable with the idea of going to court so soon, informed the court that he intended to sever his case from the rest of the defendants. Ordering separate trials for defendants in a large racketeering indictment can occur for any number of reasons, and the judge, Scott McAfee, has made clear the early trial date applied only to Mr. Chesebro.
Mr. Trump’s move came as no surprise. As the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, he is in no hurry to see the Georgia matter, or the other three criminal cases against him, go to trial. In the separate federal election interference case Mr. Trump faces in Washington, D.C., his lawyers have asked that the trial start safely beyond the November 2024 general election — in April 2026.