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Trump-appointed judge hints she’ll reject Jack Smith’s ‘unrealistic’ classified documents trial date

Trump-appointed judge hints she’ll reject Jack Smith’s ‘unrealistic’ classified documents trial date

The classified documents case against former president Donald Trump may not begin until late summer or early fall after a federal judge in Florida called Special Counsel Jack Smith’s proposed trial schedule “unrealistic”.

In a hearing on Friday, District Court Judge Aileen Cannon heard from prosecutors in Mr Smith’s office as well as Mr Trump’s attorneys about a proposed start date for the trial against the former president accusing him of willfully retaining classified documents after he left the White House. The trial was originally supposed to begin on May 20th.

Federal prosecutors proposed a start date of July 8th, saying the case could be held over the summer and it would not violate the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) “60-day rule” pertaining to the November presidential election.

But Judge Cannon said that parts of the Special Counsel’s suggested trial schedule were “unrealistic”.

The case, brought by Mr Smith last summer, contains a slew of pretrial motions that Judge Cannon needs to rule on. Additionally, lawyers for the former president want an evidentiary hearing which the judge seemed open to.

“A lot of work needs to be done in the pretrial phase of this case,” Judge Cannon said.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Mr Trump asked the judge to move the trial to August 12th at the very earliest but also suggested the trial shouldn’t begin until after the election – citing the former president’s campaign schedule and other criminal trial in New York.

“A trial that takes place before the election is a mistake and should not happen," Todd Blanche, an attorney for Mr Trump, said.

Friday’s hearing, which Mr Trump attended, ended mid-afternoon with no official date set. Most likely, Judge Cannon’s decision will be announced in a court order.

The former president insists he did nothing wrong and was entitled to keep the papers found at his property (Getty Images)
The former president insists he did nothing wrong and was entitled to keep the papers found at his property (Getty Images)

Judge Cannon, who was appointed to the bench by Mr Trump, previously remarked she was willing to move the start date to allocate more time for both parties to go over the evidence or accommodate Mr Trump’s busy schedule this year.

Mr Trump’s lawyers have argued that starting the trial this year would be “unfair” to the former president, who is also the Republican frontrunner currently campaigning for re-election.

At one point during the hearing, Judge Cannon asked Mr Trump’s attorneys to keep their arguments relevant.

Seeking to delay the case as much as possible is a strategy Mr Trump’s legal team has implored in this case as well as the several other criminal or civil trials he’s faced/facing.

Should Judge Cannon allow the trial to take place in the fall, or even after the election, it could potentially impact the start date of his federal election interference trial.

Trump waves to supporters as he arrives at the Federal Courthouse, on March 1, 2024, in Fort Pierce, Florida (AP)
Trump waves to supporters as he arrives at the Federal Courthouse, on March 1, 2024, in Fort Pierce, Florida (AP)

In the case, Mr Trump and two co-defendants are charged with several crimes related to the willful retention of classified documents.

Mr Smith alleges that Mr Trump knowingly took documents, some containing national defence information, with him to his Mar-a-Lago residence after leaving the White House in 2021. The former president is charged with willful retention of national defence information, concealing a document in a federal investigation and conspiring to obstruct justice, among others.

The co-defendants, Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira are charged with making false statements, conspiring to obstruct justice, destroying, mutilating, or concealing documents and more.

All three have pleaded not guilty.

The case is one of several criminal or civil the former president is facing this year while he is campaigning.