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Trump lawyers seek to postpone classified documents trial until after 2024 election

Lawyers cite scheduling conflicts, delays in obtaining, reviewing classified records
Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he leaves New York courtroom, Oct. 4, 2023
Posted at 11:54 AM, Oct 05, 2023

WASHINGTON — Lawyers for former President Donald Trump have asked a judge to postpone his classified documents trial until after next year's presidential election, saying they have not received all the records they need to review to prepare his defense.

The trial on charges of illegally hoarding classified documents, among four criminal cases the Republican former president is facing, is currently scheduled for May 20, 2024, in Fort Pierce.

In a motion filed late Wednesday, Trump's lawyers urged U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon to push back the trial until at least mid-November 2024. The presidential election is set for Nov. 5, 2024, with Trump currently leading the GOP field in the months before the primary season.

The defense lawyers argued that a postponement was necessary because of scheduling conflicts — another federal trial is scheduled for March 2024 in Washington, and one of Trump's attorneys, Christopher Kise, is also representing him in an ongoing civil fraud trial in New York — and because of what they say are delays in obtaining and reviewing the classified records cited in special counsel Jack Smith's indictment.

"The Special Counsel's Office has not provided some of the most basic discovery in the case," said the motion from Kise and another Trump attorney, Todd Blanche. "Given the current schedule, we cannot understate the prejudice to President Trump arising from his lack of access to these critical materials months after they should have been produced."

The defense lawyers said they have access to only a "small, temporary facility" in Miami to review classified documents, an arrangement that they said has slowed the process.

Aerial view of Mar-a-Lago Club, Aug. 31, 2022
This is an aerial view of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club, Aug. 31, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla.

Prosecutors with the special counsel last week suggested that the Trump team was seeking unreasonable delays in the case. Though they acknowledged a "slightly longer than anticipated timeframe" for certain procedural steps, the prosecutors said it was false to accuse them of delaying the production of evidence in the case.

They said some of the delays were beyond their control and were due in part to the fact that defense lawyers had lacked the "necessary read-ins to review all material" provided by the government.

The Justice Department said it has so far provided about 1.28 million pages of unclassified documents and has turned over the majority of classified evidence that it anticipates producing. By Friday, prosecutors said, they will provide much of the remaining outstanding classified evidence.

Classified documents removed from Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate
This image contained in a court filing by the Department of Justice on Aug. 30, 2022, and redacted by in part by the FBI, shows a photo of documents seized during the Aug. 8 search by the FBI of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

"This production will include certain materials that Defendants have described as outstanding, including audio recordings of interviews and information related to the classification reviews conducted in the case," prosecutors wrote.

The indictment accuses Trump of illegally retaining at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate, Mar-a-Lago, reams of classified documents taken with him after he left the White House in 2021 and then repeatedly obstructing government efforts to get the records back. He has pleaded not guilty and has denied any wrongdoing.

The defense lawyers said Trump's two co-defendants in the case, his valet Walt Nauta and Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira, are joining in the request.