FORT PIERCE, Fla. − The federal judge overseeing Donald Trump’s classified documents case rescheduled the trial for May 20, despite pleas by the former president’s attorneys to hold off until after the 2024 presidential election.
In a seven-page order released Friday, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon said the “interests of justice” warrant a nine month delay from the trial’s original August start date — a compromise between prosecutors’ push for a four-month delay and the defense attorneys’ bid for an indefinite one.
Her decision followed lengthy debate at the first pre-trial conference this week over whether Trump’s status as a presidential candidate warranted an indefinite delay. Cannon, like prosecutors, seemed unconvinced that it did.
She was skeptical of the Justice Department’s proposed Dec. 11 trial date, too, suggesting that the complexity of the case called for a more measured approach. Justice attorney David Harbach rejected the idea that the December date was expedited at all. He told Cannon that the right to a speedy trial doesn’t need to be justified; only a diversion from it does.
Cannon disagreed. In Friday’s order, she called the prosecutors’ proposed schedule “atypically accelerated and inconsistent with ensuring a fair trial.”
Echoing the defense attorneys, she pointed to the more than 1.1 million pages of non-classified discovery the Justice Department has produced thus far, at least nine months of camera footage and countless more pages of classified discovery yet to be handed over.
The mountain of discovery is only likely to get taller as the trial approaches, she said. The classified nature of some of it lengthens the ordinary path from indictment to trial.
A 38-count federal indictment accuses Trump and his codefendant, Walt Nauta, of mishandling classified documents and trying to conceal them from federal investigators. Both men pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Hannah Phillips is a journalist covering public safety and criminal justice at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at email@example.com.