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Trump's Florida documents trial to be postponed with no date set

Chris Strohm and Erik Larson, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

Former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial for allegedly taking sensitive documents from the White House is likely to be postponed beyond May, putting his legal schedule in further limbo as he campaigns to return to the White House.

At a hearing Friday in Florida, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon indicated that the May 20 trial start will be pushed back, but she didn’t set a new date. Trump, the Republican front-runner for the November election, attended the hearing while dozens of his supporters outside waved flags and condemned the proceedings.

The case, brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith, accuses Trump of willfully retaining national defense documents, concealing records and obstructing justice by evading government efforts to get the records back.

Trump’s legal schedule has become increasingly tight as he campaigns amid four criminal prosecutions and two appeals in civil cases he recently lost at trial. The federal criminal trial over his attempt to overturn the result of the 2020 election is also in limbo as Trump awaits a U.S. Supreme Court hearing on whether presidential immunity protects him from such charges. A similar state case in Georgia hasn’t yet been set for trial.

One of the reasons Cannon cited for a possible delay is the start of Trump’s first criminal trial on March 25 in New York, where the Manhattan district attorney charged him with falsifying business records to conceal hush money payments to a porn star before the 2016 election. Cannon said the New York case may prevent Trump and his lawyers from completing all the work that needs to be done before the classified documents case.

During the hearing, prosecutors sparred with Trump’s lawyers over whether the Justice Department would violate its own rules by putting the former president on trial in the weeks before November’s election.

Smith’s team argued that holding a trial against Trump right before the election wouldn’t violate the DOJ’s policy of not taking any public actions that could influence an election outcome right before the vote.

 

“It does not apply to cases that have already been charged,” said Jay Bratt, the lead prosecutor handling the classified documents case.

Trump’s top lawyer, Todd Blanche, shot back, saying holding a trial right before the election would represent “complete election interference” and violate the department’s rules.

Justice Department officials have interpreted the policy as meaning 60 days before the election, although that’s not spelled out in the agency’s manual.

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(With assistance from Kyle Kim.)


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