Donald Trump is facing an Aug. 14 trial date in the case against him by the Justice Department alleging the mishandling of classified documents, but that will likely be delayed once the former president’s legal team lodges expected legal challenges to the indictment and the government’s evidence.
Trump is accused of unlawfully holding on to sensitive national security information after he left the White House in January 2021 and of obstructing the government’s efforts to identify and retrieve the records. Last week, he pleaded not guilty in a Miami federal courtroom to federal charges he mishandled state secrets.
The August 14 trial date set in a Tuesday order from US District Judge Aileen Cannon is not set in stone. Lawyers for the former president could file motions asking to dismiss the indictment or challenging the use of certain categories of evidence, which would require more time to litigate before any trial. They can waive Trump’s right to a speedy trial and ask for more time to prepare, citing the complexity of the case or the need to work around Trump’s other court dates and campaign schedule. Todd Blanche didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment about Cannon’s trial date order. Trump has denied wrongdoing and assailed the case as politically motivated.
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“It would indeed serve Trump’s political purposes to delay,” said Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School. “But even absent such a strategy, it is hard to imagine this trial date as anything but a scheduling marker that will give way to the extensive motion practice that is inevitable, particularly in cases involving classified material.”
Richman added that much of the evidence in the case involves classified documents, which mean that Trump’s lawyers in the case will need to get clearance and take time to view the material.
Trump, who also faces a March 25, 2024 trial in the criminal case against him in New York, has already made several motions that have bogged down the typical pretrial process. For example, Trump’s team has made a motion that the case be tried in federal court and that request is currently pending before a US judge in Manhattan. Trump’s team has also sought to have the judge removed from the case, further delaying the process.
Historically, Trump has also sought to delay several civil trials that he has been involved with, including the recently concluded rape trial brought by New York advice columnist E. Jean Carroll.
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Judge Cannon ordered the trial to begin quickly. Last week, Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed to investigate Trump, asked for a speedy trial in the case.
Cannon presided over a fight last year between Trump and prosecutors over the dozens of boxes of documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago resort in August. Cannon’s decision to grant Trump’s request for an independent special master review of the materials delayed the government’s ability to use them for months until she was reversed by a federal appeals court in December.
Trump, who is making a comeback bid for the White House, is the first former president who has faced federal criminal charges.
Prosecutors claim Trump kept highly sensitive papers at Mar-a-Lago, some of which they say address nuclear programs and military attack plans. The indictment accuses Trump of 37 counts. Some carry prison sentences as long as 10 years. Other charges carry up to 20-year maximum terms.
Trump faces mounting legal threats as he pursues a second term. The federal case against him, brought by Smith, follows the New York state criminal case set for trial in Manhattan in March. That prosecution is over falsifying business records for payments made to a porn star just ahead of the 2016 election Trump won. He has pleaded not guilty and said it’s part of a larger political effort to take him down.
Trump also faces potential state charges in Georgia for allegations he interfered in the 2020 election result and federal charges related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.