US judge sets August 14 start date for Donald Trump trial

Early date, which remains tentative, shows federal judge’s intent to move quickly with the classified documents case.

A few supporters wave flags with Trump's picture on them
Supporters of former US President Donald Trump attend a gathering outside his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, March 20 [File: Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters]

Washington, DC – A federal judge in the United States has set August 14 as the initial trial date for former President Donald Trump’s classified documents case – an early schedule that will likely be delayed by pre-trial arguments.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon announced the date on Tuesday, a week after Trump was formally presented with 37 charges relating to mishandling secret government files. The former president, who is seeking the White House again in 2024, pleaded not guilty.

“This case is hereby set for a Criminal Jury Trial during the two-week period commencing August 14, 2023, or as soon thereafter as the case may be called,” Cannon wrote in a court order.

Arguments about what evidence can be admitted in trial usually take months to settle. Further complicating Trump’s prosecution is the need to set up a system to deal with classified documents at the heart of the case that cannot be seen by jurors and lawyers.

Still, Cannon’s tentative date signals intent to move forward with the case quickly.

Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the prosecution as well as other federal investigations in Trump’s possible misconduct, had promised to pursue a “speedy trial”.

“It’s very important for me to note that the defendants in this case must be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” the special counsel told reporters on June 9.

“To that end, my office will seek a speedy trial on this matter consistent with the public interest and the rights of the accused.”

Earlier this month, prosecutors made public the indictment against Trump, alleging that he willfully took and retained classified files after leaving the presidency early in 2021, including national defence-related documents, in violation of the Espionage Act.

The indictment also accused Trump of keeping the secret documents in unsecured locations, including a ballroom and a bathroom at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. In addition, prosecutors said that he showed the documents to unauthorised people at private meetings.

Trump and his Republican allies have rebuked the indictment as a “witch-hunt”. The former president can still run for the White House even if he is convicted.

“No crime, no case. Election Interference!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform on Tuesday.

In addition to the federal charges, Trump is facing an indictment in New York for a hush-money payment his then-personal lawyer made to a porn star before the 2016 elections.

He is also being investigated in Georgia for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential elections in the state.

Trump has denied wrongdoing in all the cases. Despite his legal trouble, the former president continues to enjoy a large lead over his opponents in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, according to public opinion polls.

Source: Al Jazeera