Trump team asks to delay documents trial, citing election run-up

Donald Trump is too busy campaigning for the 2024 US election to prepare for trial, lawyers say, asking for indefinite postponement.

Former President Donald Trump is the first president in United States history to face criminal charges [File: Steven Senne/The Associated Press]

The legal team for former United States President Donald Trump has asked that a criminal trial regarding his handling of classified documents be postponed, citing conflicts with campaigning leading up to the presidential election in November 2024.

In court filings late Monday, Trump’s lawyers noted the “extraordinary” nature of the federal case, in which Trump is accused of hoarding and hiding sensitive governments he took when he left the White House, as well as obstructing the subsequent FBI investigation.

Trump is the first current or former president in US history to face criminal charges. Beyond the federal charges he faces connected to the documents, he also faces New York state charges related to falsifying business records in connection to hush-money payments made to a porn star.

“The government’s request to begin a trial of this magnitude within six months of indictment is unreasonable, telling, and would result in a miscarriage of justice,” said the document filed by Chris Kise, one of Trump’s lawyers in the documents case. A trial date is currently set for August 14.

The lawyers cited challenges to select jurors and concerns about whether Trump would get a fair trial before the November 2024 election. The lawyers called the current court date “unrealistic”.

The government investigation went on for more than a year before charges were brought, the lawyers argued, and during that time authorities “collected many hundreds of thousands of documents, interviewed dozens of witnesses, and presented many witnesses before two separate Grand Juries”. The defendants need time to evaluate those materials, and to decide if they need to request anything additional, the court document said.

Because the evidence includes classified documents, procedures would need to be put in place to handle them.

The filing did not suggest a new date, but Trump’s lawyers said a date previously proposed by federal prosecutors – December 11 of this year – was also untenable, as Trump is the “likely Republican Party nominee” in the November 2024 presidential election and campaigning “requires a tremendous amount of time and energy”.

In addition, Trump’s co-defendant Waltine ‘Walt’ Nauta’s job requires him to be at his boss’s side during campaigning – and this makes trial preparation for both defendants “challenging”.

Polls show Trump far and away leading a crowded Republican field, topping his closest challenger Florida Governor Ron DeSantis by nearly 30 percentage points, according to an average of national polls maintained by FiveThirtyEight. If those trends remain the same during next year’s Republican primary – far from a certainty – Trump would again take on Democratic President Joe Biden in the general election, as he did in 2020.

Trump’s legal woes have cast US politics into uncharted territory. Under the US Constitution, criminal charges and even conviction cannot prevent a candidate from running – or winning – a presidential race.

The logistics, however, remain more complicated – and raise unprecedented questions. Both trials are all but assured to require Trump to spend hours in court, potentially limiting his ability to campaign. If he is convicted and sentenced to prison time, he could still legally run from behind bars.

The New York state trial, in which Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, is currently set for March 25, 2024. Trump’s lawyers have been seeking to have the venue moved, arguing the former president cannot receive a fair trial in liberal-leaning Manhattan.

In the federal case, Trump faces 37 felony charges. His aide, Walt Nauta, also faces six felony counts related to the documents investigation. Both men have pleaded not guilty, with Trump first appearing in federal court in Miami, Florida on June 13.

Most recently, both the defence and prosecutors filed paperwork requesting to delay by a week a preliminary hearing regarding how the trial would handle classified documents – a hearing scheduled for Friday.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing in both criminal trials, and has accused the prosecution in both cases of seeking to derail his presidential ambitions.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies