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Judge signals December may be too soon for Trump’s classified documents case, but doesn’t set date


By ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON and ERIC TUCKER (Associated Press)

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) — A federal judge signaled Tuesday that December may be too soon to begin former President Donald Trump’s landmark criminal trial concerning the mishandling of classified documents, but did not say whether she would agree to Trump’s request to put the trial off until after the 2024 election.

Judge Aileen Cannon said she would issue a written order “promptly” after the nearly two-hour hearing in federal court in Fort Pierce, Florida, where lawyers for Trump pressed for an indefinite delay of a trial date.

Trump’s lawyers say they need more time to prepare for what they describe as a complex case with a huge amount of evidence to review. They also argue the former president can’t get a fair trial ahead of the 2024 election, in which he is seeking to reclaim the White House.

Prosecutors have proposed that the trial begin in December, saying the case is not complex and there’s no need for a lengthy delay. Prosecutor David Harbach told the judge that Trump’s legal team has repeatedly suggested he should be treated differently because he’s running for president.

“He should be treated like anybody else,” Harbach said. “He is not different than any other busy, important person.”

It was the first time arguments were held in front of Cannon in the unprecedented federal prosecution of the former president, who is also facing charges in a separate case in New York. Cannon has been under increased scrutiny since a court ruling last year that critics said was unduly favorable to Trump.

Trump’s co-defendant, Walt Nauta, attended the hearing, but Trump did not. He was traveling Tuesday to Iowa, where he was taping a town hall with Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Todd Blanche, one of Trump’s lawyers, said he disagreed with the prosecution’s view that this case should be treated like any other because of his position as the leading candidate looking to run against President Joe Biden. His team asked the judge to wait until after the election, arguing they believe the circumstances to guarantee a fair trial would improve by then.

“It is intellectually dishonest to say this case is like any other case,” Blanche said. “It is not.”

Harbach rejected insinuations by the defense team that the Biden administration was pursuing cases against Trump because he is a leading opposition candidate, saying there was “no political influence.” “No one in our team is a political appointee,” he said, noting that they are all career prosecutors.

The judge kept pressing Trump’s layers to set some dates and a more concrete timetable, acknowledging she did understand they needed more time to review documents and footage.

“We need to set a timetable,” Cannon said. “Some deadlines can be established now.”

But she also questioned prosecutors on whether there were other similar cases involving classified documents tried in such a short time frame.

The court date unfolded hours after Trump disclosed that he had received a target letter from the Justice Department in a separate investigation into efforts by him and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Such letters often precede an indictment.

Trump and Nauta have pleaded not guilty to a 38-count indictment that accuses them of conspiring to hide classified documents from Justice Department investigators that were taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago at the end of Trump’s time in office in January 2021.

Cannon also presided over a lawsuit that the Trump team filed last year over the August 2022 FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. Cannon drew criticism and second-guessing from legal experts for granting Trump’s request for a special master to conduct an independent review of the classified documents removed by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago.

A three-judge federal appeals court later overruled that order and said she had lacked the authority for such a ruling.

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Tucker reported from Washington.


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