Washington — The federal judge overseeing the case involving former President Donald Trump’s handling of sensitive government records declined for now to postpone his trial until after the November 2024 presidential election, but said she would revisit the issue in several months.
The 9-page decision by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon maintains the May 2024 trial date she scheduled over the summer. But she said she will consider the matter again at a conference set to take place on March 1 after proceedings to determine how classified information will be used in the case.
If the original trial date stands, it would take place weeks before Republicans formally select their nominee for the presidential election.
Last month, Trump’s lawyersto delay the trial until after the Nov. 5 election, citing in part ongoing proceedings in a separate case against Trump brought by special counsel Jack Smith in Washington, D.C. The documents case is being handled in federal court in South Florida.
In the D.C. case, prosecutorswith four counts related to alleged efforts to prevent the transfer of presidential power after the 2020 election. He has to all charges in both cases.
The trial in the election-related case isMarch 4, and Trump’s lawyers had argued that those proceedings and the schedule set in the South Florida case required him and his defense team “to be in two places at once.” The former president’s legal team told Cannon in a filing that the deadlines set in July were “unworkable.”
The judge’s order
In her order Friday, Cannon said it is “most prudent, given the evolving complexities” of the case to adjust the first batch of deadlines for pretrial matters, but said Trump’s request to postpone the trial date is “premature.”
Cannon acknowledged the other criminal proceedings that Trump is involved in, including a criminal case brought by the Manhattan district attorney. She wrote that the court “cannot ignore the realities of pre-trial and trial schedules” in those cases. Theis set to begin March 25.
“Although the Special Counsel is correct that the trajectory of these matters potentially remains in flux, the schedules as they currently stand overlap substantially with the deadlines in this case, presenting additional challenges to ensuring defendant Trump has adequate time to prepare for trial and to assist in his defense,” she wrote.
Trump wasstemming from his handling of sensitive government records that were recovered from his South Florida resort of Mar-a-Lago last year. Thirty-two charges of alleged unlawful retention of national defense information correspond to documents bearing classification markings that were recovered from the resort between January and August 2022.
The documents concerned U.S. and foreign military capabilities, U.S. nuclear weaponry and military activities abroad, according to the indictment. One of the sensitive records cited by prosecutors — and allegedly discussed by Trump during a July 2021 meeting at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club — is a Defense Department memo related to plans for a potential attack on Iran by the U.S.,in June.
Trump’s request for a trial delay largely centered on what he said were issues with how quickly prosecutors were turning over evidence they had collected. The defense team also raised concerns with the timeframe for establishing a secure facility in South Florida where Trump and his lawyers could review classified evidence.
In addition to asking Cannon to push back the trial date, Trump’s attorneys requested she revise the schedule for submitting pretrial filings and requests pursuant to a section of the(CIPA), a federal law that governs how classified information will be used at a trial.
Prosecutors working with the special counsel objected to any postponement of the proceedings, noting that they turned over more than 1.2 million pages of evidence to Trump’s lawyers and that the “vast majority” of classified material is available to them. Smith told Cannon in a filing last month that the government has turned over to the defense roughly 5,431 pages of classified material, plus four discs of photographs, audio recordings and material pulled from electronic devices.
Cannon wrote that the amount of material involved in the case is “exceedingly voluminous, even more so than initially thought.” She noted that there have been “evolving and unforeseen circumstances” that warrant a change in the deadlines set by the court in July.
“They make plain to the Court what due process requires: Defendants need more time to review the discovery in this case,” she said in her decision. This order aims to afford that opportunity in a reasonable fashion, balanced against the public’s right to a speedy trial.
Cannon said that Smith is seeking to keep from Trump an “unidentified amount” of material marked classified, which will be the subject of litigation under CIPA and require the court to review a “significant volume” of information.
Cannonon Trump’s push for a delay last week, and she expressed skepticism about how the schedule in her case would work alongside the other criminal proceedings Trump is facing.
In addition to the federal charges in Washington and state charges in New York, Trump is alsoin Fulton County, Georgia, stemming from alleged attempts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election in the state. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Two others were charged alongside Trump in the documents case for allegedly obstructing the Justice Department’s investigation: Walt Nauta, an aide to the former president, who faces eight charges, and Carlos De Oliveira, the property manager at Mar–a-Lago, who is charged with four counts.
Nauta and De Oliveira have pleaded not guilty to all counts.