Federal prosecutors on Thursday asked the judge overseeing the classified documents case of former President Donald J. Trump to reject a motion by Trump’s lawyers to postpone his trial indefinitely, a move that could delay the process until after the 2024 election. .
The filing by prosecutors came three days after Trump’s legal team made an unusual request to Judge Aileen M. Cannon, asking her to drop the government’s initial suggestion to hold the trial in December and delay it. until all “substantive motions”. ” in the case were presented and resolved.
The timing of a trial is crucial in all criminal matters. But it is especially important in this case, in which Trump has been charged with illegally withholding 31 classified documents after leaving the White House and conspiring with one of his personal aides, Walt Nauta, to obstruct government efforts to recover them. .
Mr. Trump is now a federal criminal defendant and the leading Republican Party candidate in the presidential campaign. There could be untold complications if judgment of him leaks in the closing stages of the race. Also, if the trial is delayed until after the election and Trump wins, he could try to pardon himself after taking office or have his attorney general drop the matter altogether.
Apparently acknowledging these high stakes, prosecutors working for special counsel Jack Smith told Judge Cannon that she should not allow Trump and Nauta to let the case drag on without a foreseeable end.
“There is no factual or legal basis to proceed in such an indeterminate and open manner,” they wrote, “and the defendants provide none.”
Trump’s lawyers based their motion to stay, which was filed Monday in the Southern District of Florida, on several assertions.
They said that as the case progressed, they intended to make novel, and presumably slow, arguments that the Presidential Records Act allowed Mr. Trump to take White House documents. That interpretation of the Watergate-era law is at odds with how legal experts interpret it.
Prosecutors responded by saying that this possible defense “borders on the frivolous.” They also reminded Judge Cannon that it was nothing new, but was in fact central to an extended legal battle last year that she oversaw, in which an outside arbitrator was appointed to review a large amount of materials seized by the FBI in March. -a-Lago, the private club and residence of Mr. Trump in Florida.
Trump’s lawyers also complained that a first trove of discovery evidence provided by the government was extensive, including more than 800,000 pages of material, and would take a long time to sort through.
Prosecutors responded by saying that about a third of those pages contained unimportant “email header and footer information” and that a set of “key” documents that would guide the defense to crucial sections of the discovery had only about 4,500. pages.
Prosecutors also told Judge Cannon that they intended to provide Trump’s lawyers with a second batch of unclassified discovery evidence next week, including interviews conducted with witnesses on June 23, a few weeks after Trump was accused. That suggests, as The New York Times reported, that the investigation into the case of the classified documents continued even after the charges were filed.
As for the classified discovery evidence, prosecutors said they planned to bring most of the classified materials seized from Mar-a-Lago to a compartmentalized confidential information facility inside the Miami federal courthouse next week for review. Trump’s lawyers, though some of them have only provisional security clearances.
Once the lawyers get their final security clearances, prosecutors said, they will be able to see the remaining classified records, including some “relating to the declassification of various materials during the Trump administration.”
In requesting a postponement, Trump’s lawyers had said that his campaign program “requires an enormous amount of time and energy” and that these efforts would continue until the election. They argued that Nauta had a similar problem since his job requires him to accompany Trump on “most campaign trips around the country.”
But prosecutors appeared to have no patience with this argument, saying the “professional schedules of the two men do not provide a basis for delay.”
“Many defendants have demanding jobs that require a considerable amount of their time and energy, or a significant amount of travel,” they wrote. “The Speedy Trial Act does not contemplate any factor as a basis for a continuation, and the court should not allow it here.”