Federal Judge in Trump Documents Case Sets Key Deadline

Federal Judge in Trump Documents Case Sets Key Deadline

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A Florida judge handed down a ruling in the classified documents case.

A federal judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s classified documents case approved a request from the special counsel’s office to require preparation of jury questions ahead of the May 2024 trial.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon issued a paperless order that former president’s lawyers and special counsel Jack Smith’s office to “meaningfully confer and file a joint jury questionnaire for the Court’s consideration, clearly denoting any areas of agreement and disagreement” before Feb. 28, 2024. The court also “reserves ruling on the specific process by which questionnaires will be” transmitted or completed before that time.

Last week, the special counsel’s team had asked Judge Cannon, a Trump appointee based in Florida, to set a deadline for early February regarding the first jury selection steps.

“Because the pre-trial publicity surrounding this case is substantial, the Government recommends a thorough jury selection process, including a written questionnaire completed by potential jurors before in-person voir dire,” Mr. Smith’s office said in a court filing.

“Accomplishing that requires enough time beforehand to allow for meaningful conferral among the parties and for the Court to consider and resolve disputes,” prosecutors wrote in their filing. “Time may also be required to print questionnaires and conduct other processing.”

But President Trump’s team opposed the proposal, writing a day later that his request was too early. “Moreover, in addition to wasting the Court’s resources, this type of litigation detracts from the defendants’ efforts to review voluminous discovery and prepare motions that are crucial to the defense,” his lawyers wrote.

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On Tuesday, or a day after Christmas, Mr. Smith’s team pressed Judge Cannon again to grant his request for a speedy trial in the documents case.

New Filing

In a new court filing, prosecutors wrote that the U.S. government “hereby files this Speedy Trial Report regarding the status of this case under the Speedy Trial Act of 1984,” noting the Florida court earlier this year “confirmed that the same Speedy Trial clock applies to each defendant, that it has been tolled until May 20, 2024, and that 70 days remain on the Speedy Trial clock.”

Previously, Mr. Smith’s team had opposed President Trump’s attempts to push back the trial in urging the judge to leave the trial date intact.

President Trump’s legal team argued the move for a speedy trial is “unrealistic” and said it should be postponed until after the November 2024 election.

Federal prosecutors accuse President Trump of allegedly retaining at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate, Mar-a-Lago, reams of classified documents taken with him after he left the White House in 2021 and then repeatedly obstructing government efforts to get the records back. He has pleaded not guilty and has denied any wrongdoing, arguing they are politically motivated efforts to block him from returning to the White House.

Two others were charged in the case, his valet Walt Nauta and Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira.

Last month, Judge Cannon declined to delay the documents trial and described a request by his legal team to postpone the trial data as “premature.” President Trump’s lawyers had argued that they needed more time to review the large trove of evidence with which they’d been presented and also cited scheduling challenges resulting from the other legal cases against the former president, including three additional criminal prosecutions for which he is awaiting trial.

Judge Cannon noted the “unusually high volume of classified and unclassified evidence” involved in the case, as well as the fact that the former president is currently scheduled next March to face both a federal trial in Washington and a trial on state charges in New York.

 Supporters fly flags on a boat to show support near former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Fla., on April 1, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Supporters fly flags on a boat to show support near former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Fla., on April 1, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“Although the Special Counsel is correct that the trajectory of these matters potentially remains in flux, the schedules as they currently stand overlap substantially with the deadlines in this case, presenting additional challenges to ensuring Defendant Trump has adequate time to prepare for trial and to assist in his defense,” Judge Cannon wrote.

She has pushed back several deadlines for filing and responding to pretrial motions but kept the trial date in place, though she said she would consider the defense request again at a scheduling conference next March.

President Trump is also currently set for trial on March 4, 2024, in Washington on federal charges related to the 2020 presidential election. He also faces charges in Georgia accusing him of trying to subvert that state’s vote, as well as another state case in New York accusing him of falsifying business records in connection with money payments during the 2016 election.

In addition, he has been sued in a business fraud case in New York, where a trial is taking place. President Trump has denied wrongdoing in all of the cases.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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