Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump and the federal prosecutors who have accused him of illegally withholding highly sensitive national defense documents began a first hearing Tuesday with the judge overseeing the case to discuss trial planning and how to handle the classifieds. material at the heart of the prosecution.

The hearing, in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla., is the first time Judge Aileen M. Cannon has presided over a trial in the case, parts of which could be closed to the public. Mr. Trump was indicted last month by the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, on charges of illegally retaining 31 individual classified documents and of conspiring with one of his personal aides, Walt Nauta, to thwart the government’s repeated efforts to to recover them.

The hearing began hours after Mr Trump revealed he had received a so-called target letter from Mr Smith in a separate criminal investigation into his efforts to stay in office after his 2020 election loss and the subsequent attack on the Capitol on 1 from January 6, 2021. The targeting letter was an indication that Mr. Trump could face indictment in that investigation as well.

The defense and prosecution in the documents case have bitterly clashed over when the trial should begin. The government asked Judge Cannon to start the trial in December, but lawyers for Mr. Trump and Mr. Nauta responded by asking to delay it until all “substantive motions” were presented and resolved.

The timing of the trial could be very consequential, especially if it is pushed after the 2024 election. If Mr. Trump, the current front-runner for the Republican nomination, were to win, he could try to pardon himself after taking office or could have his general prosecutor to simply dismiss the case.

In an order issued Monday, Judge Cannon told both sides that they must be prepared to discuss the sentencing schedule in court on Tuesday. Her decision will be an early test of how she handles the high-stakes prosecution of the man who appointed her to the bench in 2020. While Judge Cannon was randomly assigned to the case, she attracted a lot of attention with rulings that favored Mr. Trump is in the early stages of the investigation.

Shortly after the indictment was returned, Judge Cannon scheduled the trial to begin in August – although that appeared to be a pro forma date guided by a desire to meet demands for a speedy trial. In a filing last week, lawyers for Mr. Trump and Mr. Nauta asked the judge to delay the ruling indefinitely, arguing that the discovery evidence in the case was extensive, that the arguments about classified materials would be onerous and that Mr. Trump , as a presidential candidate, had a hectic schedule of travel and campaign events.

Prosecutors responded by saying that much of the evidence had already been turned over to the defense and that many “accused defendants have demanding jobs that require a considerable amount of their time and energy, or a significant amount of travel.”

The arguments about the classified materials began in earnest on Tuesday in a process guided by a law known as the Classified Information Procedures Act. The purpose of the law is to balance two competing interests in cases involving classified material: to ensure that criminal defendants have sufficient access to the material to protect their due process rights and that national security is not jeopardized.

On Monday, prosecutors asked Judge Cannon to issue an order that would require Mr. Trump, Mr. Nauta and their lawyers to sign a formal memorandum of understanding stating that they would not disclose any classified material they were given or allowed to review as part of the discovery process. Protective orders like these are common in cases involving classified material.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *