Federal prosecutors on Thursday asked the judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s classified documents case to reject a motion by Mr. Trump’s lawyers to delay his trial indefinitely, a move that could serve to delay the proceedings until after the election from 2024.
The prosecutors’ presentation came three days after Mr. Trump’s legal team made an unusual request to the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, asking her to set aside the government’s initial suggestion to hold the trial in December and delay it until all ” substantial motions”. ” in the case were presented and resolved.
The time of trial is decisive in all criminal matters. But it is especially important in this case, in which Mr. Trump was charged with illegally keeping 31 classified documents after leaving the White House and conspiring with one of his personal aides, Walt Nauta, to thwart the government’s efforts to recover them . .
Mr. Trump is now both a federal criminal defendant and the primary candidate of the Republican Party in the presidential campaign. There could be untold complications if his trial spills over into the final stages of the race. Moreover, if the trial is pushed back until after the election and Mr. Trump wins, he could try to pardon himself after taking office or have his attorney general drop the case altogether.
Apparently recognizing these high stakes, prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, told Judge Cannon that she should not allow Mr. Trump and Mr. Nauta to let the case drag on without a foreseeable end.
“There is no basis in law or fact for proceeding in such an indefinite and open-ended fashion,” they wrote, “and the defendants provide none.”
Mr. Trump’s lawyers based their motion for a delay — which was filed Monday in the Southern District of Florida — on several claims.
They said that as the case moved forward, they intended to make new — and presumably time-consuming — arguments that the Presidential Records Act allowed Mr. Trump to take White House documents with him. That interpretation of the Watergate-era law is at odds with how legal experts interpret it.
Prosecutors responded by saying this potential defense “borders on frivolous.” They also reminded Judge Cannon that it wasn’t new at all, but was actually central to an extended legal battle last year that she oversaw, in which an outside arbitrator was set up to review a trove of materials seized by the FBI from Mar. -a-Lago, Mr Trump’s private club and residence in Florida.
Mr Trump’s lawyers also complained that a first batch of discovery evidence provided by the government was extensive – including more than 800,000 pages of material – and would take a significant amount of time to sort through.
Prosecutors countered, saying that about a third of those pages contained minor “email headers and footer information” and that a set of “key” documents that would lead the defense to the crucial sections of discovery is only about 4,500 pages.
The prosecutors also told Judge Cannon that they intend to provide Mr. Trump’s lawyers with a second set of unclassified discovery evidence as early as next week, including interviews conducted with witnesses up to June 23 – several weeks after s Mr. Trump was impeached. That suggests, as The New York Times reported, that the investigation into the classified documents case continued even after charges were filed.
As for the secret discovery evidence, prosecutors said they planned to take most of the classified materials seized from Mar-a-Lago to a sensitive compartment information facility inside the Miami federal courthouse next week for review by lawyers for Mr. Trump – although some of them only have temporary security clearances.
Once the lawyers have their final security clearances, prosecutors said, they will be able to view the remaining classified records, including some “relating to the declassification of various materials during the Trump administration.”
In asking for a delay, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said his campaign schedule “requires an enormous amount of time and energy” and that these efforts will continue until the election. They argued that Mr. Nauta had a similar problem because his job required him to accompany Mr. Trump on “most campaign trips around the country.”
But prosecutors appeared to have no patience for this argument, saying the two men’s “professional schedules” did not provide a basis for a delay.
“Many of the accused defendants have demanding jobs that require a considerable amount of their time and energy, or a significant amount of travel,” they wrote. “The Speedy Trial Act contemplates no such factor as a basis for a continuance, and the court should not indulge it here.”