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Trump to seek delay of trial on mishandling classified documents

Written by on March 1, 2024

Donald Trump was set to ask a federal judge in Florida on Friday to push back his criminal trial on charges of mishandling classified documents until the thick of the U.S. presidential campaign.

Trump’s lawyers wrote in a court filing on Thursday that he cannot have a “fair trial” while he is running for president. Nevertheless, Trump’s legal team proposed an Aug. 12 trial date, which would put the former president in court in the weeks before the Nov. 5 presidential election.

A crowd of Trump supporters cheered and waved banners as a large motorcade arrived at the courthouse 130 miles (209 km) north of Miami, though Trump himself was not visible. U.S. media outlets reported that he had arrived at court.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, is expected to delay the trial beyond its current May 20 start date.

U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is prosecuting the case, has proposed a July 8 start date. That would begin the trial just a week before the Republican nominating convention, where Trump is expected to be named his party’s standard bearer.

Trump has sought to delay all of his four criminal trials as he campaigns for the presidency. If he were to win, he would be in a position to shut down this case and another that was brought under federal law.

That delaying strategy has yielded results.

A trial had been due to start on Monday on federal charges that Trump illegally sought to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, but that has been delayed indefinitely while the U.S. Supreme Court considers his argument that he should not be prosecuted for actions he took as president.

Trump is trying to get the classified documents case dismissed on similar grounds.

Another trial stemming from his attempts to overturn the election is also in limbo as a Georgia judge considers whether to remove the prosecutor, who has admitted to having a romantic affair with a lawyer she hired for the case against Trump and others.

At this point, only one case is certain to go to trial before November. On March 25, jury selection will begin in a New York state court, where Trump faces charges of falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments to a porn star prior to his 2016 election.

Trump could clinch the Republican presidential nomination before then, and set himself up for a likely election rematch against Biden.

In the Florida case, Trump faces charges that he unlawfully kept classified information after leaving the White House in January 2021 and misled officials who tried to recover them.

The criminal cases pose political as well as legal risks for Trump, 77. According to Reuters/Ipsos polling, one in four Republicans and half of independent voters say they would not vote for Trump if he was convicted of a crime.

Trump is not the only former elected official to face accusations of improperly handling sensitive U.S. documents.

A federal prosecutor uncovered evidence that Biden knowingly took classified documents when he left the vice presidency in 2017, but opted not to bring criminal charges earlier this month, noting that he had cooperated with the investigation and a conviction would be difficult to obtain.

Reporting by Andrew Goudward in Fort Pierce, Florida and Andy Sullivan in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone, Christian Schmollinger and Alistair Bell.


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