Defense filing bluntly states that this December is too early to start a trial and urges Cannon not to set a trial date now, but clarifies that Trump’s lawyers oppose any trial that begins during the presidential election season , which will start in earnest later this year. Assuming Trump wins the Republican nomination, the defense’s stance appears to be urging nearly a year’s delay beyond what prosecutors have proposed.
The tactic is in line with Trump’s typical legal strategy: dragging out the issues he’s dealing with for as long as possible while hoping the legal landscape changes. But this time, it’s an effort to avoid a criminal trial that could carry a lengthy prison sentence if he’s convicted — the first-ever trial against a former president.
Furthermore, if Trump wins the election, he would likely end up with legal and constitutional tools to disrupt the prosecution’s efforts. For example, he has previously proclaimed the power of « self-forgiveness, » an untested exercise of presidential power. He would also appoint Justice Department leaders, who may simply choose to pull the plug on any lingering criminal matters.
In the late-night presentation, defense attorneys did not address these scenarios, but did highlight a number of potential conflicts and other proceedings that they say will make it « almost impossible » to prepare for a trial for Trump and Nauta in the coming months.
One complication cited by defense attorneys is a civil trial set for October in New York involving an effort by New York Attorney General Letitia James to impose major restrictions on Trump and his activities over alleged pervasive fraud. Another is a criminal trial set for Trump in March 2024 on state charges related to payments to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election.
And Nauta’s attorney, Stan Woodward, has four criminal trials scheduled before December — including one he’s trying this week — two of which involve defendants charged with assaulting police officers on Jan. 6, 2021, and another for former Trump aide Peter Navarro, who is accused of defying a congressional subpoena.
Defense attorneys say Smith’s urge to rush the federal criminal case to trial is unwarranted.
“There is no ongoing threat to national security interests nor any concern about continued criminal activity,” the defense team says, possibly alluding to statements by prosecutors supporting lax release terms for Trump and Nauta.
While prosecutors have called the case against Trump relatively straightforward — despite the inherent complexities of bringing a former president to trial — attorneys for Trump and Nauta say the trial will be extraordinarily complicated, requiring Cannon to make unprecedented decisions about handling presidential documents, the validity of the Smith probe and other issues.
« Therefore, measured consideration and a timeline that allows for a thorough and careful review of the proceedings leading to this indictment and the unprecedented legal issues presented herein serve the best interests of the defendants and the public, » they write.
A federal grand jury in Miami indicted Trump last month on 37 felony charges, including 31 counts of intentional withholding of national defense information. Trump pleaded not guilty at a maximum security hearing in Miami a few days later. Nauta struggled to find a local lawyer but finally entered a not guilty plea last week.
Those hearings were held before federal prosecutors. Neither defendant has yet appeared before Cannon, whom Trump named to the bench in 2020.
The defense’s request urging the judge not to set a trial date came after Smith’s team and Nauta’s attorneys clashed earlier in the day over timing for the first substantive hearing in the case.
Cannon has scheduled a hearing for Friday to discuss issues related to handling classified information as part of a future trial. But Woodward has asked for that hearing to be postponed due to his trial this week in Washington.
In a filing around noon Monday, prosecutors from Smith’s team strongly objected to any delay. However, by evening that dispute appeared to be on track to be resolved, with all parties offering to instead appear in court in Cannon’s Fort Pierce, Fla., next Tuesday. However, the change requires judge approval, which still had to happen by Monday evening.
In the filing about the timing of the trial, defense attorneys said they would try to insist that none of the evidence presented at Trump’s trial be withheld from the public.
« The defendants believe that there simply should be no ‘secret’ evidence, nor any fact hidden from public view relating to the prosecution of a major presidential candidate by his political opponent, » the defense attorneys wrote.