Judge books Trump trial date for classified documents case

Republican candidate Donald Trump will go to trial in May 2024 when the presidential election campaign is in full swing, after a judge set a date for his secret documents case.

The trial for allegedly keeping classified documents at his Florida home will open during the Republican presidential primaries.

Judge Aileen Cannon booked it for 20 May 2024 which is six months before the November 2024 presidential election.

Mr Trump had been seeking to have the trial delayed until after the election while prosecutors wanted it to proceed this year.

Mr Trump was already due to go to trial in March 2024 — also clashing with the primaries — for a separate criminal case over alleged hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels.

The timing of both cases could be a nightmare for the Republican primaries. Mr Trump is the leading Republican candidate and the documents trial would be towards the end of the campaign.

But in a statement, Mr Trump said the date was a “major setback” to the justice department’s “crusade” against him.

“The extensive schedule allows President Trump and his legal team to continue fighting this empty hoax,” the statement said.

2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump has been making appearances ahead of next year’s Republican primaries. Photo: Getty

Prosecutors allege the former president illegally kept secret documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he left office and obstructed government efforts to retrieve them.

Mr Trump has maintained his innocence, lambasting the case as an attempt to destroy his election campaign.

Federal prosecutors last month proposed a December 11 trial for Mr Trump, who is charged with 37 felony counts.

But last week Mr Trump’s lawyers countered with a request for a delay.

They did not propose a specific date but said the case concerned novel legal issues, and proceeding with a trial within six months was “unreasonable” and would “result in a miscarriage of justice”.

Prosecutors on special counsel Jack Smith’s team responded by asking Judge Cannon to not postpone the trial beyond the December date they recommended.

They rejected the idea that any of the legal arguments the defence intends to raise requires postponement of the trial, saying they’ve already produced grand jury transcripts and unclassified witness statements.

Defence lawyers had also argued that Mr Trump’s busy campaign schedule for the 2024 Republican nomination needed to be taken into account in scheduling a trial. But prosecutors said that, too, was not a basis for an indefinite delay.

“Many indicted defendants have demanding jobs that require a considerable amount of their time and energy, or a significant amount of travel,” they wrote.

The Justice Department also disputed the suggestion that an impartial jury could not be selected before the presidential election.

“The Government readily acknowledges that jury selection here may merit additional protocols (such as a questionnaire) and may be more time-consuming than in other cases, but those are reasons to start the process sooner rather than later,” the prosecutors wrote.


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