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Trump asks the judge to delay the start of his classified documents trial

Pages from the unsealed federal indictment of former  President Donald Trump. On Monday he asked a Florida judge to delay his trial. Prosecutors asked for it to begin in December.
Drew Angerer
Getty Images
Pages from the unsealed federal indictment of former President Donald Trump. On Monday he asked a Florida judge to delay his trial. Prosecutors asked for it to begin in December.

Updated July 11, 2023 at 7:38 AM ET

Former President Donald Trump is asking a judge to delay setting a trial date in his classified documents case, citing the extraordinary nature of a prosecution that could happen during the 2024 presidential race and what his lawyers cast as complex legal issues.

In a court filing late Monday, Trump attorneys cite "the sheer volume" of materials they must review in the case, which charges Trump and his valet with conspiring to obstruct a federal probe by hiding highly classified materials Trump had stored in a bathroom and a ballroom at his Florida resort. Those papers included secrets about defense and weapons capabilities of the U.S. government and its allies, according to the indictment.

Trump is the first former president to face federal charges from a government he once led — a fact that lawyers Christopher Kise and Todd Blanche highlighted in their request for delay. Among other complications, they said, would be the challenge of selecting a jury during the 2024 presidential race, where Trump is running against the current president, Joe Biden.

"There is simply no question any trial of this action during the pendency of a Presidential election will impact both the outcome of that election and, importantly, the ability of the Defendants to obtain a fair trial," Kise and Blanche wrote.

The Trump lawyers also used the filing to foreshadow some of their next steps in the case, including a likely motion to dismiss the charges; legal challenges to the special counsel's authority; and probing the nature of the documents themselves and whether they had been properly classified.

Courts have established longstanding and special procedures for handling classified materials. But Trump's team is signaling it will fight any government bid to keep some evidence secret.

"In general, the Defendants believe there should simply be no 'secret' evidence, nor any facts concealed from public view relative to the prosecution of a leading Presidential candidate by his political opponent," they wrote. "Our democracy demands no less than full transparency."

Special counsel Jack Smith is asking for a trial to begin Dec. 11, telling the court it could take about three weeks, in all.

But Trump lawyers wrote that schedule "is simply untenable and ignores the magnitude of this case." They said they need more time to prepare a defense in the trial and argue "there is no ongoing threat to national security interests nor any concern regarding continued criminal activity."

Trump and his longtime aide, Walt Nauta, have both pleaded not guilty to the charges in the Florida indictment. Nauta's lawyers, Stanley Woodward and Sasha Dadan, endorsed the trial delay.

Ulitimately, it will be up to U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed to the bench by Trump, to decide the timing of the case.

Trump is confronting other major legal headwinds, including a civil trial in New York this October and a criminal trial in New York in March 2024 on charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg over hush money payments Trump allegedly directed to an adult film star.

He's also under investigation by a prosecutor in Fulton County, Ga., as well as federal grand juries in Washington over attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

The former president has told interviewers he would consider issuing pardons for many of the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and has centered some of them in his campaign appearances. During his time in office, Trump also asked about the ability of a president to pardon himself, according to news reports from that time.

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Carrie Johnson
Carrie Johnson is NPR's National Justice Correspondent.