Attorneys for former President Donald Trump Chris Kise (C) and Todd Blanche (R) arrive at The Alto Lee Adams Sr. United States Courthouse on July 18, 2023 in Fort Pierce, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s federal criminal case appeared skeptical Tuesday of the former president’s argument that the trial over his handling of classified documents should be delayed beyond the 2024 election, NBC News reported.
But Judge Aileen Cannon, whom Trump appointed to the federal bench, seemed no warmer toward the Department of Justice’s position that the trial should begin in mid-December.
“I can appreciate more time is necessary, but some deadlines can clearly be established now,” Cannon said, NBC reported.
The hearing ended without a ruling. But the judge appeared to brush aside certain arguments, especially one put forward by a defense attorney who argued that Trump would not be able to get a fair jury to hear his case while he remains a top presidential candidate, according to NBC’s Ken Dilanian. Trump is the clear frontrunner in the Republican primary field.
The Tuesday afternoon proceeding marked the first pretrial hearing in the unprecedented federal criminal case against the former president and his aide, Walt Nauta.
Walt Nauta, personal aide to former U.S. President Donald Trump, exits Fort Pierce U.S. courthouse after a hearing in Fort Pierce, Florida, July 18, 2023.
Maria Alejandra Cardona | Reuters
Trump faces 37 criminal counts related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving the White House. The most serious charges against him carry 20-year maximum prison terms. He pleaded not guilty to all the counts on June 13. Nauta, Trump’s valet and co-defendant, pleaded not guilty earlier this month to six criminal charges.
The hearing took place in federal court in Fort Pierce, Florida, before Cannon, who had presided over a separate legal dispute related to the classified documents that the FBI had seized from Mar-a-Lago.
She drew criticism from legal experts in that matter when she granted Trump’s request to appoint an independent official to review the seized records, temporarily halting the DOJ’s investigation.
Tuesday’s hearing was originally scheduled in order to address how the sensitive classified information at the center of the case will be handled. But on Monday, Cannon told the parties to be prepared to discuss their proposals for when the trial should start.
Prosecutor Jay Bratt said in the hearing that they have so far produced 1.1 million pages of documents as part of the evidence-sharing process known as discovery. That total includes 1,545 pages of classified discovery, Bratt said, according to NBC.
The DOJ also pushed back on the notion that Trump’s status as a former president, and current presidential candidate, requires that he be treated differently, NBC reported. Prosecutor David Harbagh argued that courts have for generations relied on mechanisms that help them pick juries fairly, no matter the celebrity or status of the defendant.
In their bid to push the trial date back, Trump’s attorneys said they have mountains of information to review, including more than three years’ worth of surveillance video footage — some of which still has not even been uploaded.
They also argued that the case is far from normal, in part because Trump is being prosecuted by the administration of President Joe Biden, his possible opponent in the 2024 election, NBC reported.