Trump seeks to postpone setting a trial date in documents case
Donald Trump has asked a federal judge in Florida to postpone setting a trial date in the classified documents prosecution against him, objecting to prosecutors’ request to put it on the calendar later this year and signalling he might argue to delay it until after the 2024 presidential election.
Trump’s lawyers filed a response on Monday evening opposing Special Counsel Jack Smith’s proposal to start the trial on 11 December, calling the government’s proposal “unrealistic”. Both sides do agree on one thing — that the trial date of 14 August, initially set by US District Judge Aileen Cannon, is too soon.
Attorneys for Trump and his personal aide and codefendant Waltine “Walt” Nauta asked Cannon to delay setting a trial date until all pretrial issues were fully litigated. They argued there was no reason to expedite the schedule given the complicated and “unprecedented” legal issues it presented, the large amount of evidence, the involvement of classified material, the logistics of Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign, and the challenge of seating an impartial jury before the election.
“There is simply no question any trial of this action during the pendency of a presidential election will impact both the outcome of that election and, importantly, the ability of the defendants to obtain a fair trial,” the lawyers wrote.
Prosecutors had first asked to push back the schedule last month. Smith’s team said that it could take as many as 60 days for Trump’s attorneys to receive the final security clearances needed to view all of the evidence. Other legal proceedings to determine how classified evidence could factor in a public trial would add more time to the pretrial schedule, they said.
On Monday, Nauta separately asked Cannon to postpone a hearing set for 14 July to discuss issues related to the use of classified information in the case. Nauta’s Washington-based attorney Stanley Woodward said he had a scheduling conflict and also needed more time to get his security clearance approved.
The Justice Department opposed the delay, arguing that Nauta’s other attorney Sasha Dadan, who is based in Florida, could handle the hearing and that Woodward had been on notice that the government wanted to quickly hold the hearing. Trump’s defence team didn’t oppose rescheduling the hearing, according to Nauta’s filing.
Later in the day, Nauta’s lawyers alerted the court that the government had agreed to reschedule the hearing for 18 July if the court approved the short delay.
Trump is also expected to challenge the lawfulness of the indictment on multiple grounds, fights that could add months to the timeline.
Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges that he unlawfully held onto national defence information after he left the White House and then conspired to obstruct the government’s efforts to get those documents back. Nauta has also pleaded not guilty.
Cannon has tried to keep the case on track so far, ordering the lawyers to move swiftly to complete whatever paperwork is needed for the security clearance process.
Any trial beyond Cannon’s original Aug. 14 schedule will complicate the logistics of Trump’s 2024 presidential run. The first Republican primary debate is set for 23 August, though it’s unclear if Trump will participate. His campaign activity is only expected to ramp up as the former president and his rivals for the Republican nomination prepare for the primaries to kick off in January.
Trump’s legal team in the Florida prosecution also has to contend with a March 2024 trial date in a separate state prosecution in New York, other pending state and federal criminal investigations, and a multitude of civil legal proceedings facing their client. DM