By Zachary Stieber
Former President Donald Trump’s federal criminal trial has been delayed into 2024, but is still slated to take place before voters vote for the next president.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon on July 21 said the trial will not start until May 20, 2024.
Mr. Trump is facing 37 felony counts, including conspiring to obstruct justice and illegally keeping control of national defense information.
The trial will take place in federal court in Florida and is expected to last about two weeks.
The new trial date is a compromise between the parties, one of which asked for a late 2023 date and one of which requested a date after the Nov. 5, 2024 election.
After Judge Cannon previously scheduled the trial for August 2023, prosecutors asked for the trial to start on Dec. 11, 2023, while Mr. Trump wanted the trial postponed until after the election, noting he is running for president in a field that includes President Joe Biden.
“The Court now presides over a prosecution advanced by the administration of a sitting President against his chief political rival, himself a leading candidate for the Presidency of the United States,” lawyers for Mr. Trump said in a brief. “Therefore, a measured consideration and timeline that allows for a careful and complete review of the procedures that led to this indictment and the unprecedented legal issues presented herein best serves the interests of the Defendants and the public.”
Prosecutors said a delay was warranted, but only for several months. They said the delay was needed because Mr. Trump’s lawyers need to obtain security clearance to review classified material that would be produced during discovery ahead of the trial.
Judge Cannon, an appointee of Mr. Trump, said that holding the trial in August would prevent the parties from effectively preparing for the proceedings.
She turned down Mr. Trump’s request to postpone setting a date, but also said the government’s proposed schedule was “atypically accelerated and inconsistent with ensuring a fair trial.”
In addition to the pending security clearances, other pending issues include selecting and preparing a facility for reviewing the materials, the judge said.
“As it stands, the government’s timeline spans less than six months from the first discovery production (June 21, 2023) to trial in a … case involving, at the very least, more than 1.1 million pages of non-classified discovery produced thus far (some unknown quantity of which is described by the Government as ‘non-content’), at least nine months of camera footage (with disputes about pertinent footage), at least 1,545 pages of classified discovery ready to be produced (with more to follow), plus additional content from electronic devices and other sources yet to be turned over,” Ms. Cannon said. “By conservative estimates, the amount of discovery in this case is voluminous and likely to increase in the normal course as trial approaches. And, while the Government has taken steps to organize and filter the extensive discovery, no one disagrees that Defendants need adequate time to review and evaluate it on their own accord.”
Pre-trial motions, including possible motions to suppress some of the evidence, will also take time to resolve, Judge Cannon wrote.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers had said that if the trial were held before the election, it would be challenging to impanel an impartial jury. Judge Cannon said that factor was “unnecessary” to consider at this time.
The ruling comes after Judge Cannon rejected prosecutors’ attempt to restrict the ability of Mr. Trump and his lawyers to share information they receive from prosecutors.
Mr. Trump is also facing criminal charges in New York. A date for that trial has not yet been set. Mr. Trump recently lost a bid to have that trial held in federal court. Civil trials in New York in three cases are already scheduled. A trial for alleged fraud is set to start in October, followed by a defamation trial on Jan. 15, 2024, and a trial for allegedly using misleading tactics to entice people to invest on Jan. 29, 2024.
Mr. Trump was convicted in a civil case of sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll, a magazine columnist, earlier this year.
Other Parts of Schedule
The parties were also notified in the new order of upcoming dates as they move towards trial.
The next upcoming dates pertain to a conflict over the protection of disclosure of classified information. Prosecutors are expected to enter a new motion that outlines less extensive restrictions on the parties in the case with regard to the information.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers can then file an opposing motion, and the government can reply to that filing. There may be a hearing on the matter in August.
The first production of classified documents to Mr. Trump’s team is slated to take place on Sept. 7.
Among the other dates: a hearing on pretrial motions on Dec. 11; several discovery status reports, including a joint report on Feb. 12, 2024; and a pretrial call on May 14, 2024.