Former U.S. President Donald Trump is asking a federal judge to delay his trial on a 37-count indictment that alleges he illegally took classified documents with him to his oceanside Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida when his presidency ended and then conspired with an aide, Walt Nauta, to keep government investigators from retrieving them.
Prosecutors had already asked U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon for a delay until December 11, four months beyond the initial August 14 date she set, to give both sides more time to prepare.
Trump and Nauta, who is facing six charges in the case, said in a court filing late Monday that the government’s proposed December trial date was “unrealistic” and that it would deny them a reasonable time to prepare.
“The court should therefore withdraw the current order setting trial and postpone any consideration of a new trial date,” Trump’s lawyers told Cannon, adding that a continuance was both necessary and appropriate.
There was no immediate response from special counsel Jack Smith, who is prosecuting the classified documents case against Trump and Nauta. Smith is also investigating the former president’s role in trying to upend his 2020 reelection loss to Democrat Joe Biden and the January 6, 2021, riot by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers were in the initial stages of certifying Biden’s victory.
Trump is the leader for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, according to national polling. A month ago, he pleaded not guilty in a Miami federal court to the classified document charges. Trump has often assailed Smith’s pursuit of the criminal investigations against him, calling it a “witch hunt” and last week describing the prosecutor as a “crackhead.”
In their filing Monday, Trump’s lawyers said the December trial date proposed by the Justice Department would interfere with his presidential election bid and cited the need to review a potentially large amount of evidence before a trial. The Classified Information Procedures Act, which aims to protect classified evidence and manage disclosure of such records, sets rules for trials involving classified material.
The 2024 race for the November election next year kicks off with the January 15 Republican caucuses in the midwestern state of Iowa, followed quickly by a raft of party primary elections in other states.
Trump already is facing another criminal case in the midst of his campaign, with a March trial date in a New York state court.
Trump is alleged to have altered business records of his family’s real estate conglomerate to hide $130,000 in hush money payments to a porn star before the 2016 election to stop her from talking publicly about her allegation they had a one-night tryst a decade earlier. It is alleged Trump doctored the records after his successful 2016 electoral bid.
Trump has denied the affair and all the political-related allegations he is facing.
Among them is an ongoing case in the southern state of Georgia, where a state prosecutor is expected to decide in early August whether to charge Trump and key allies with illegally trying to overturn his narrow 2020 loss there to Biden. In a taped phone conversation in early 2021, Trump asked Georgia election officials to “find” him 11,780 votes, one more than he needed to overcome his defeat.
In the classified materials case in Florida, the indictment alleges that Trump illegally retained 31 documents that “included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack.”
Once his presidency ended on January 20, 2021, the indictment said, “Trump was not authorized to possess or retain those classified documents.” At various times, the indictment alleges that Trump stored boxes of the documents in a bathroom and shower stall at Mar-a-Lago, on a ballroom stage, and in a bedroom, an office and a storage room.
As a former president, Trump could have sought a waiver of the requirement that only people with a “need to know” could continue to retain and look at the documents, but the indictment said that the former president “did not obtain any such waiver after his presidency.”
The 37-count indictment against Trump also alleges that the 45th president conspired with Nauta to hide the documents from Trump’s attorney, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the grand jury that was hearing evidence in the case.
Among the other charges, Trump is accused of making false statements to investigators and ordered that boxes be moved to various locations at his Mar-a-Lago estate so that his lawyer would not be able to locate all the documents that federal authorities had subpoenaed.