Trump documents trial could be delayed, as judge considers schedule changes

Ft. Pierce, Florida — The special counsel’s classified documents case against former President Donald Trump faces the possibility of delays that would take the trial deeper into the 2024 election cycle, after a federal judge in Florida indicated Wednesday she might grant Trump’s request to alter the pretrial schedule. 

Aileen M. Cannon
File: Judge Aileen Cannon, in 2020.

US Senate/AP

Judge Aileen Cannon — a Trump appointee to the federal bench — heard arguments on Wednesday from the former president’s attorneys and special counsel Jack Smith’s team over Trump’s attempt to change the litigation schedule in a way that could push the trial date — currently scheduled for May 2024 — until after the 2024 presidential election

“I’m having a hard time seeing how this schedule could work with such compressed schedules of so many trials in multiple jurisdictions,” Cannon said from the bench Wednesday, noting that Trump has another federal case, also brought by Smith, in Washington, D.C., which is set to go to trial in Jan. 2024, as well as other legal deadlines stemming from the state charges he faces. 

While Judge Cannon did not say how or when she will rule, she indicated it was possible the trial could be pushed off within a reasonable timeframe to make room in Trump’s legal schedule and to ensure his team is able to examine all of the evidence in the case. 

Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, told the court his team would not be ready for the current scheduled trial date because of a “voluminous” amount of evidence, including sensitive government records. 

The former president is charged with dozens of counts that involve allegations that he illegally possessed national defense information, charges that were brought after the FBI recovered documents with classified markings from his Mar-a-Lago home last year. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges — which also include accusations that he allegedly conspired to obstruct the probe — as have his two co-defendants charged in the case.

In court papers, Trump’s defense team has described the current schedule as a “rush to trial” and asked Cannon to change the schedule, and his co-defendants — aides Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira — took a similar stance. Nauta and De Olivera have both pleaded not guilty in the case.

Cannon questioned whether Trump’s lawyers will have enough time to review the evidence in the next six months, pointing to the 1.3 million pages of documents and years’ worth of security camera footage prosecutors have provided the defense, as well as over 5,500 pages of classified material that can only be looked at in a secure location. 

But Smith’s team in court filings and at Wednesday’s hearing pushed back, arguing the requested delays are “not a surprise,” but an attempt to drag out the proceedings. 

“If you look at what has been done by the defense’s position, they delay as long as they can,” prosecutor Jay Bratt told Cannon, urging her to keep the May 2024 trial date.

In court papers, the special counsel’s office said, “[T]he Government has provided the defendants extensive, prompt, and well-organized unclassified discovery, yielding an exhaustive roadmap of proof of the detailed allegations in the superseding indictment. The vast majority of classified discovery is also available to the defendants.” 

Wednesday’s hearing was not the first time the former president has asked a federal judge to wait until after the election to start one of the special counsel’s trials. Earlier this year, Trump lobbied Judge Tanya Chutkan to delay the 2020 election-related case against him until April 2026, noting the amount of evidence in the case and the presidential election. 

Chutkanultimately ruled 2026 was far too long to wait and ordered the case to begin in March 2024, during the presidential primary campaign. “Mr. Trump will have to make this trial date work … regardless of his schedule,” Chutkan said at the time and has since indicated the date will not change. 

The former president has pleaded not guilty in both federal cases against him and has denied all wrongdoing. 

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