Judge to Set Date in Trump Trial 03/01 06:41
The federal judge overseeing the classified documents prosecution of Donald
Trump is expected to set a trial date on Friday, a crucial decision that could
affect whether the former president and leading Republican candidate faces a
jury this year on charges that he hoarded top secret records and hid them from
FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) -- The federal judge overseeing the classified
documents prosecution of Donald Trump is expected to set a trial date on
Friday, a crucial decision that could affect whether the former president and
leading Republican candidate faces a jury this year on charges that he hoarded
top secret records and hid them from government investigators.
The trial, in federal court in Fort Pierce, Fla., is currently set for May
20. But U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has already postponed multiple dates
in the case and signaled that she would revisit the trial date during a pivotal
hearing on Friday.
Ahead of the hearing, federal prosecutors on Thursday requested a July 8
trial date. Defense lawyers said there was no way to hold a fair trial this
year at a time when Trump is looking to clinch the Republican presidential
nomination but nonetheless proposed Aug. 12 as a possible date to begin jury
The trial date has taken on added significance in light of the uncertainty
surrounding a separate federal case in Washington charging Trump with scheming
to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The Supreme Court said this week
that it would hear arguments in late April on whether Trump as a former
president is immune from prosecution, leaving it unclear whether that case --
also brought by special counsel Jack Smith -- might reach trial before the
If the Florida classified documents case were to be postponed until after
the election, and if the Washington election subversion case does not take
place this year, that would mean voters would head to the polls without two
blockbuster federal prosecutions -- both alleging felony charges -- being
resolved by a jury.
The highly anticipated hearing is the first public one in months in the
case. It comes as prosecutors have sought to lay bare the gravity of the
allegations against Trump and amid signs of simmering tensions between Smith's
team and Cannon on the question of whether names of potential witnesses in the
case could be disclosed by the defense on the public docket.
Trump faces 40 felony counts in Florida that accuse him of willfully
retaining after he left the White House dozens of classified documents at his
Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and then rebuffing government demands to give them
Prosecutors in recent court filings have stressed the scope of criminal
conduct that they say they expect to prove at trial, saying this week in one
brief that "there has never been a case in American history in which a former
official has engaged in conduct remotely similar to Trump's."
They allege, for instance, that Trump intentionally held onto some of the
nation's most sensitive documents after he left office -- only returning a
fraction of them upon demand by the National Archives -- and then urged his
lawyer to hide records and to lie to the FBI by saying he no longer was in
possession of them. He's also charged with enlisting staff to delete
surveillance footage that would show boxes of records being moved around the
Trump and his lawyers have denied any wrongdoing. They asked Cannon last
week to dismiss the case, citing among other arguments the same immunity theory
now being considered by the Supreme Court.
Among the issues issue expected to be discussed at Friday's hearing is a
dispute over whether defense lawyers can file publicly on the docket a
substantially unredacted motion that would identify potential witnesses for the
government and details of their expected testimony -- information they were
given by prosecutors under a protective order.
Cannon initially permitted the defense lawyers to disclose the witness
names, but after prosecutors urged her to reconsider and said she had committed
a "clear error," she put the order on hold.