WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge in Florida has set a trial date next May for former President Donald Trump in a case accusing him of illegally keeping hundreds of classified documents.
The May 20, 2024 trial date, set Friday by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, is a compromise between a request from prosecutors to set the trial for December and an offer from defense attorneys to postpone it indefinitely until sometime after the 2024 presidential election.
If the date is met, it would closely follow a separate trial in New York for Trump on dozens of state charges of falsifying business documents in connection with an alleged payment of secret money to a porn actor. It also means the trial would only begin deep into the presidential nomination timeline and likely long after the Republican nominee is clear — albeit before that person is formally nominated to the Republican National Convention.
In pushing back the trial from the Dec. 11 start date requested by the Justice Department, Cannon wrote that “the timeline proposed by the government is atypically expedited and inconsistent with the guarantee of a fair trial.” She agreed with defense attorneys that the amount of evidence that would need to be reviewed before trial, including classified information, was “voluminous and likely to increase in the normal course as trial approaches”.
“The Court finds that the interests of justice served by this lawsuit outweigh the best interests of the public and defendants in a speedy trial,” Cannon wrote.
In a statement referencing the Justice Department, the Trump campaign called Cannon’s order “a major setback to the DOJ’s crusade to deny President Trump due process.” The busy schedule allows President Trump and his legal team to continue to fight this empty hoax.
Trump could still face additional trials in the coming year. He revealed this week that he had received a letter informing him that he was the target of a separate Justice Department investigation into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, an indication that charges could soon be brought.
The target letter referenced several separate laws that Trump could be accused of violating, including conspiracy to defraud the government, according to a person familiar with the matter who insisted on anonymity to discuss private correspondence.
Trump’s new attorney in that investigation, John Lauro, told Fox News on Friday that prosecutors appear to be accusing Trump of “some sort of effort to obstruct” the Jan. 6, 2021, counting of the state’s electoral votes and “whether or not President Trump intimidated anyone or a stuffed ballot.” He said Trump would not appear before a grand jury because “he did absolutely nothing wrong.”
“He didn’t do anything criminal,” Lauro said. “And he argued that he had the right to hold those positions as President of the United States. When he saw all these election discrepancies and irregularities, he did what every president was required to do because he was sworn to do just that. Several Trump-appointed judges and Trump’s own attorney general said there was no evidence of widespread fraud that could have affected the election outcome.
Georgia prosecutors, meanwhile, plan to announce charging decisions within weeks as part of an investigation into attempts by Trump and his allies to overturn the vote in that state.
The Cannon trial would take place in a federal courthouse in Fort Pierce.
It stems from a 38-count indictment last month, filed by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, who accused Trump of deliberately hoarding classified documents, including top secret files, at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach and conspiring with his valet, Walt Nauta, to hide them from investigators who claimed them.
Both Trump and Nauta have pleaded not guilty.
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Michael R. Sisak in New York contributed to this report.