Federal prosecutors on Thursday asked the judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s classified documents case to dismiss a motion by Trump’s lawyers to indefinitely postpone his trial, a move that could serve to delay proceedings until after the 2024 election.
The filing by prosecutors came three days after Trump’s legal team filed an unusual request with judge, Aileen M. Cannon, asking her to shelve the government’s initial suggestion that the trial be held in December and to delay it until all “substantive motions” in the case have been filed and resolved.
The timing of a trial is crucial in all criminal matters. But it’s especially important in this case, in which Trump has been accused of illegally withholding 31 classified documents after leaving the White House and conspiring with one of his personal aides, Walt Nauta, to obstruct government efforts to recover them. .
Mr. Trump is now both a federal criminal defendant and the leading Republican Party candidate in the presidential campaign. There could be untold complications if evidence of him penetrates the closing stages of the race. Furthermore, if the trial is postponed until after the election and Mr. Trump wins, he could seek to pardon himself after taking office or ask his Attorney General to drop the matter entirely.
Seemingly recognizing this high stakes, prosecutors working for Special Counsel, Jack Smith, told Judge Cannon he should not allow Mr. Trump and Mr. Nauta to drag out the case without a foreseeable end.
« There is no basis in law or in fact for proceeding in such an indeterminate and open manner, » they wrote, « and the defendants provide none. »
Trump’s attorneys based their deferment request — filed Monday in the Southern District of Florida — on several allegations.
They said that as the case progressed, they intended to make new — and presumably time-consuming — arguments that the Presidential Records Act allowed Mr. Trump to bring documents with him from the White House. This interpretation of the Watergate-era law is at odds with how legal experts interpret it.
Prosecutors responded by saying this potential defense « borders on the frivolous. » They also reminded Judge Cannon that it was nothing new, but was actually central to a lengthy legal battle last year that he oversaw, in which an outside arbitrator was brought in to look into a variety of materials seized by the ‘FBI at March -a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida.
Trump’s lawyers also complained that an initial hoard of discovery evidence provided by the government was large — it included more than 800,000 pages of material — and would take a long time to sort out.
Prosecutors countered, saying about a third of those pages contained unimportant « header and footer information » and that a set of « key » documents that would have guided the defense to crucial sections of the discovery was only about 4,500 pages.
Prosecutors also told Judge Cannon they planned to provide Trump’s attorneys with a second batch of unclassified discovery evidence as early as next week, including interviews conducted with witnesses through June 23, just weeks after Trump was indicted. This suggests, as reported by the New York Times, that the investigation into the classified documents case continued even after the allegations were filed.
As for the evidence from the classified discovery, prosecutors said they planned to take most of the classified materials seized from Mar-a-Lago to a sensitive compartmentalized information facility inside the federal courthouse in Miami next week. for review by Trump’s lawyers, although some of them only have provisional security clearances.
Once the attorneys have their final security clearances, prosecutors said, they will be able to examine the remaining classified documents, including some « related to the declassification of various materials during the Trump administration. »
In asking for a postponement, Trump’s lawyers had said his campaign program « 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 as his job requires him to accompany Mr. Trump on « most campaign trips around the country ».
But prosecutors appeared to lack patience for this argument, saying « the two men’s professional schedules provide no basis for delay. »
« Many indicted defendants work demanding jobs that require a significant amount of time and energy, or a significant amount of travel, » they wrote. « The Speedy Trial Act does not provide that factor as a basis for a continuation, and the court should not indulge here. »