Lawyers for former President Donald Trump and longtime Trump aide Walt Nauta asked Judge Aileen Cannon late Monday night to delay setting a trial date for theirhis federal case in Florida.
In a court filing, Trump attorneys argued his trial should not take place as scheduled, and potentially not until after the 2024 presidential election. Trump and Nautarelated to their handling of sensitive government records after Trump left the White House.
The submission was made after Cannon set a trial date for Aug. 14 that prosecutors asked to postpone until December. Trump’s legal team argued Monday night that neither timeline is acceptable, but did not suggest a start date.
The indictment, which was filed in Florida, alleges that Trump “endeavored to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigations and conceal retention of classified documents.”
“Proceeding to trial during the pendency of a Presidential election cycle wherein opposing candidates are effectively (if not literally) directly adverse to one another in this action will create extraordinary challenges,” the former president and current Republican presidential candidate’s lawyers argued. In appointing special counsel Jack Smith to take over the Trump investigation, Attorney General Merrick Garland indicated the move was intended to avoid politicization.
The motion also said of the case against Trump, “The Court now presides over a prosecution advanced by the administration of a sitting President against his chief political rival, himself a leading candidate for the Presidency of the United States.”
The word “election” appears six times in the 12-page filing and is central to the former president’s arguments that trying the case during the presidential campaign would pose a number of problems for a jury and for Trump. The filing noted the difficulty of finding an impartial jury during the campaign season, the huge volume of evidence — some of it classified —as well as outstanding legal questions around the use of the Presidential Records Act.
And, his lawyers suggested, there’s no urgent reason to hold the trial at this time. Trump’s legal team has not yet made legal arguments in court about how the Presidential Records Act would affect the case and did not describe their theory in Monday night’s filing.
A hearing to start the process toward handling potentially classified records during trial is currently set for Friday, but will likely shift.
“This extraordinary case presents a serious challenge to both the fact and perception of our American democracy,” Trump’s attorneys said in the filing, and added that “based on the extraordinary nature of this action, there is most assuredly no reason for any expedited trial, and the ends of justice are best served by a continuance.”
Trump’s request for what could be a lengthy delay is at odds with special counsel Jack Smith’s preference. “My office will seek a speedy trial in this matter,” he said when he announced the charges against the former president in June.
The filing also highlights Trump’s busy legal schedule. His New York criminal case — in which he entered a not guilty plea to 34 felony falsification of business records charges — is scheduled to go to trial in March 2024. In a separate New York case, a $250 million lawsuit alleging fraud filed by the state’s attorney general against Trump and his company, a civil trial is scheduled for October this year.
The government has already turned over a large volume of material for discovery.
“The Government produced more than 428,300 records (in excess of 833,450 pages) consisting of approximately 122,650 emails (including attachments) and 305,670 documents gathered from over ninety (90) separate custodians,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “The initial production also included some 57 terabytes of compressed raw CCTV footage (so far there is approximately nine months of CCTV footage, but the final number is not yet certain).”