Donald Trump’s court schedule just got a little busier — and his political calendar a little more complicated — after a federal judge scheduled his trial in the classified documents case to begin May 20.
“The Court finds that the interests of justice served by this extension outweigh the best interests of the public and of the defendants in a speedy trial,” U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon wrote Friday.
The trial could again be delayed, depending on disputes over issues such as what evidence will be allowed at trial. Trump’s lawyers have said they will present new legal arguments that the judges have yet to decide.
Here are four takeaways about what the decision means for Trump’s timeline:
The documents trial takes place after the primaries but in the heat of the presidential campaign
Cannon’s tentative timeline — she cautioned “at this point” in her order — puts the national security case in the middle of the presidential primaries.
Trump continues to lead the polls for the Republican nomination despite his court cases. While the nomination is expected to be decided by May 20, states that have primaries after that date include Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota. A two-month trial would clash at the GOP convention in Milwaukee in mid-July.
Trump is raising campaign contributions and rallying his supporters in part on the basis of fighting criminal cases he says are politically motivated to prevent him from opposing President Joe Biden.
But the debates over the evidence and the trial itself could damage his reputation with voters. Even if Trump becomes the nominee, revelations during the trial could hurt his standing in the general election.
Trump’s lawyers have argued that it was not possible for him to get a fair trial during the campaign. They also argued that the campaign would keep him and his personal valet, co-defendant Walt Nauta, too busy to prepare for a trial.
“It’s intellectually dishonest to say that this case is like any other case,” Trump attorney Todd Blanche said Wednesday. “It’s not.”
But government lawyers said many defendants had busy schedules.
“He should be treated like everyone else,” Deputy Special Counsel David Harbach said Wednesday.
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Trump campaign hails timeline as ‘major setback’ for government
Trump’s campaign welcomed the trial schedule, although it falls in the primary season, as an opportunity to fight the charges.
“Judge Cannon’s order today is a major setback to the DOJ’s crusade to deny President Trump due process,” the campaign statement said. “The busy schedule allows President Trump and his legal team to continue to fight this empty hoax.”
Judge Aileen Cannon shares the difference between prosecution and defense
Cannon’s oversight of the case has come under scrutiny because she is a Trump appointee who ruled in his favor when investigating the documents at Mar-a-Lago.
FBI agents seized hundreds of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago during their search in August 2022, more than a year and a half after Trump left the White House. Trump was charged with 37 counts, including willfully withholding national defense information under the Espionage Act, conspiracy to obstruct justice and concealment of documents. Trump’s personal valet, Walt Nauta, has also been charged in the case and has pleaded not guilty.
Cannon ordered a special master to review the documents for possible restrictions under solicitor-client or executive privilege before federal investigators could use them. But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned its order, ruling that Cannon could not allow the subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the warrant was executed.
During Wednesday’s debate on the trial schedule, prosecutors said a December start would give Trump and his attorneys time to review the evidence. But Trump’s lawyers have argued the case should be postponed until after the 2024 election because he was unable to get a fair trial during his campaign for the White House.
“We have to set a schedule,” Cannon said Wednesday. “Some deadlines can be established now.”
She ruled on Friday that an early December proposed by prosecutors would be too early for Trump and his attorneys to consider “exceedingly voluminous” evidence, including 340 classified documents totaling 1,545 pages in the case.
Documents case scheduled after New York civil and criminal cases
Trump already faces a handful of other ongoing trials and investigations by federal and Georgia prosecutors:
◾ A civil lawsuit in New York against Trump’s namesake company is scheduled for October.
◾ E. Jean Carroll, who won a $5 million libel judgment against Trump in May, has a second trial for statements against her made while he was president. The trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 15, the date of the Iowa presidential caucuses.
◾ A criminal trial in New York looms in March on charges Trump falsified business records to pay a woman to remain silent before the 2020 election about her claim that she had sex with him.
Additionally, Smith and Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis are investigating Trump for possible 2020 voter fraud. Trump announced Tuesday that Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith has named him as a target in the federal investigation.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump’s Legal and Political Calendars Collide: 4 Takeaways