(The Center Square) – A federal judge on Friday set a May 2024 trial date in a case that alleges former President Donald Trump illegally kept classified documents, dealing a setback to Trump who didn’t want the trial until after the 2024 election.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, said prosecutors proposed trial date in December 2023 wouldn’t give Trump and valet Walt Nauta enough time to prepare for trial. Cannon said the sheer amount of discovery material warranted additional time. She further noted that special handling of potentially classified material in accordance with the Classified Information Procedures Act would not be possible with a December trial date.
Cannon called the government’s request “atypically accelerated and inconsistent with ensuring a fair trial.”
Cannon said that going through the discovery material in the case would take time, noting it included 1.1 million pages of non-classified discovery, at least nine months of camera footage, at least 1,545 pages of classified discovery, plus additional materials that prosecutors have yet to turn over to the defense.
“First, as the record reveals, discovery in this case is exceedingly voluminous and will require substantial time to review and digest in accordance with Defendants’ right to a fair trial,” the judge wrote. “Second, this is a CIPA case, which although on its own may not be a fact warranting designation of this case as complex under the Speedy Trial Act strongly counsels in that direction here given the substantial quantities of classified discovery, anticipated CIPA briefing, and the need for Defendants and the Court to adequately review the classified discovery under appropriate safeguards and following resolution of pending logistics.”
Cannon denied Trump’s request not to set a trial date at all and said it was too early to deal with issues such how pre-trial publicity could affect jury selection.
“Defendants identify various additional factors the Court deems unnecessary to resolution of the Government’s motion at this juncture, most principally the likelihood of insurmountable prejudice in jury selection stemming from publicity about the 2024 Presidential Election,” she wrote.
Cannon set the trial date for May 20, 2024 in Fort Pierce, Florida. If that date holds, the trial would be held toward the end of the 2024 presidential race, amid Republican presidential primaries.
Trump had asked the judge to postpone any trial until after the 2024 presidential election. Attorneys for Trump and Nauta previously filed a motion that detailed the reasons for a delay, including the amount of materials in the case. Defense attorneys also said that ultimately a trial won’t be needed anyway.
Prosecutors led by special counsel Jack Smith pushed back on those claims in a response to the motion from the former president’s team.
In June, Trump pleaded not guilty to 37 counts that allege he kept sensitive military documents, shared them with people who didn’t have security clearance, and tried to get around the government’s efforts to get them back. He is charged with 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information along with conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, corruptly concealing a document or record, concealing a document in a federal investigation, scheme to conceal and false statements and representations.
In April, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts in New York related to charges he paid hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels through a lawyer before the 2016 presidential election and covered it up as a legal expense before being elected president.