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Trump seeks to move Fla. trial to 2025, while prosecutors push for July

ORLANDO — Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to push back Donald Trump’s classified documents trial in Florida to July 8, probably after the Supreme Court rules on his claim of presidential immunity, while Trump’s lawyers are trying again to delay the trial until after the next presidential election, in which Trump is the Republican front-runner.

The competing proposals came Thursday evening at the request of U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who is holding a hearing at her courthouse in Fort Pierce, Fla., on Friday and is expected to delay the previously scheduled start of the trial from late May to deal with complicated evidentiary and other issues.

The timing of Trump’s four criminal trials has become an increasingly significant issue as the 2024 election season continues and he closes in on the Republican nomination. If Trump wins the election and takes office before either of his two federal trials, he could try to appoint an attorney general who would drop the charges. In addition, Justice Department policy generally prohibits prosecuting a sitting president.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court said it would hear oral argument in late April on Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution for acts he took while president. That decision would probably delay his D.C. federal trial for allegedly trying to block President Biden’s 2020 election victory until at least the summer.

He is scheduled starting March 25 for trial in New York on state charges of falsifying business records, allegedly to conceal a hush money payment during the 2016 election. That trial will probably continue into May.

In their court filing, Trump’s lawyers offered another scenario if Cannon rejects their argument for a trial after the election: a trial starting in August. That timing, however, might complicate any efforts by the Justice Department to hold the federal election obstruction trial in Washington in the late summer or fall.

The Republican National Convention, where the party’s presidential candidate will be formally nominated, is scheduled for July 15-18 in Milwaukee, one week after the Florida trial start date prosecutors proposed in their filing to Cannon.

Friday’s hearing is the first public proceeding Cannon has held in the classified documents case since November. At that session, Cannon suggested she may push back the trial as the courts wrestle with the complex scheduling challenge that comes with Trump being a defendant in four separate criminal cases whose trial timelines cannot overlap.

Trump is charged in Florida with dozens of counts of mishandling classified information after his presidency ended and plotting with two aides to obstruct government efforts to recover the material from Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach home and private club.

He also faces state charges in Georgia related to efforts to block the 2020 election results in that state.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all the cases.

In recent months, much of the classified documents proceedings have taken place behind closed doors, as Cannon and the prosecutors and defense attorneys navigate the extra required legal steps for trials that involve restricted government information.

As the judge, Cannon must decide how to balance the rights of Trump, his co-defendants and the jury to see classified evidence in the case with prosecutors’ desire to protect information that could risk national security and, according to the government, is not relevant to Trump’s defense.

Cannon on Wednesday denied a request by Trump’s lawyers to see more of the classified filings prosecutors have submitted under seal in the case. In that ruling, the judge concluded that the access Trump’s team sought was not typically granted and that withholding the information would not hamper his ability to build a defense.

For the hearing Friday — which starts at 10 a.m. and is expected run through the afternoon — Cannon has asked the sides to be prepared to discuss recent motions that have been filed.

Among the topics of discussion: Trump’s requests that the government produce more material for them to review as potential evidence, including emails and other documents that defense lawyers say could show political motivations for the prosecution of President Biden’s probable general election opponent.

Cannon is also expected to discuss whether the names of witnesses and others involved in the case should be made public — the subject of a long battle between the two parties.

Trump’s filing on Thursday also suggested the Florida trial could be split up, with one of Trump’s two co-defendants, aide Walt Nauta, on a different trial schedule.

Even though the immunity question that will be considered by the Supreme Court in April stems from Trump’s D.C. prosecution, it could also impact the Florida case. Trump argued in a filing last week that most of the Florida charges against him should be dismissed — noting he was still president when he packed up the classified documents and saying that he designated them at that time as personal materials.

Trump was no longer president when federal officials tried to retrieve the materials, however, and his lawyers did not argue that the obstruction-related charges in Florida should be dismissed on the grounds of presidential immunity.

Instead, he sought the dismissal of those charges on other grounds, arguing among other things that Attorney General Merrick Garland’s appointment of special counsel Jack Smith to lead the investigation was invalid since Smith was not confirmed by the Senate.

Cannon may now have to determine whether she sees enough similarities between the presidential immunity arguments in her case and the D.C. case to hold up her pretrial proceedings — at least those related to the charges of illegal retention of classified material — until the Supreme Court makes its decision.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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