Judge Cannon skeptical of Biden DOJ's plan to try 'complex' Trump documents case by December

Cannon did not issue a decision as to when the trial would begin, but said she would do so "promptly." 

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY

Trump's attorneys met Biden's DOJ prosecutors in court on Tuesday to discuss the timeline for the documents case, in which the DOJ alleges that Trump obstructed justice by not turning over materials under subpoena.

Trump cites the Presidential Records Act, which allows presidents to designate what materials, upon leaving office, constitute personal records and which should be designated to the National Archives. 

Judge Aileen Cannon was focused on the timeline of the case as she heard from prosecutors and attorneys for the defense. While the prosecutors laid out what they defined as an "aggressive" timeline to prosecute the case, Cannon offered skepticism that the trial should begin on December 11, 2023. Trump's attorneys suggested a timeline that would see the first trial date in November 2024, after the presidential election.

Cannon did not issue a decision as to when the trial would begin, but said she would do so "promptly." 

Attorneys for Trump, and his co-defendant Walt Nauta, a valet accused of moving boxes within the Mar-a-Lago residence at Trump's request, cited the amount of time it would take to adequately review the 1.1 million pages of documents in question, as well as the nine months of security camera footage in the case. 

The Tuesday hearing was intended to determine how the case should proceed with regard to the documents at issue and how they could be viewed and assessed, under the Classified Information Procedures Act. One of the questions is how to ensure there are security clearances in place for those who will view the documents. The defense team have been given only interim security clearances, and as such, the prosecutors say Trump's team will only be able to view 80% of the 1,545 pages of "classified material" that are at issue in the case.

However, it was also apparently Cannon's intention to set a schedule for the case. Cannon pressed prosecutors on their "aggressive" timeline to try the case in the winter of 2023 given the immense amount of evidence in discovery and the motions Trump's attorneys were likely to file. Per Cannon, the issues and logistics at hand make the case complex, The New York Times reports. Prosecutors claims that while they knew they had presented an "aggressive schedule" for the case, they were "committed to doing the work to achieve it."

However, Cannon looked to prosecutors to give an example of a case that had been tried under the Espionage Act. The one they cited, from Virginia, did not meet her approval as it "was a four-count case involving a very small number of documents."

“These matters often require more time given the amount of confidential information at issue,” Cannon said during the hearing.

Trump's lawyers were also asked about how long it would take them to review everything. They want Trump's schedule, and the fact that he is running for president against the sitting president, whose administration is bringing the case against Trump, to be considered. They also offered concerns about the ability of Trump to get a fair, jury trial given the publicity of the case.

So far, Cannon is not impressed with the Justice Department's handling of time in the case. She "criticized the Justice Department for its handling of a motion filed on Monday for a protective order related to how confidential documents should be handled. Under local rules, prosecutors must “meaningfully confer” with defense lawyers before filing such motions," The Wall Street Journal reports. 

While the prosecutors claimed they'd tried to set a time with Trump, they did not make attempts to do so until Friday, and the motion was due in court Monday. "You tried to confer on a Friday before sending something due on a Monday," Cannon said. "That seems a bit rushed."

Trump is being charged under the Espionage Act, something he has consistently railed against in speeches and interviews, while Nauta has been charged, along with Trump, of conspiracy to obstruct the government and its efforts to regain documents that Trump says the government has no right to in the first place, per the Presidential Records Act.

In some presidential polls, Trump and Biden are tied. Trump leads the GOP field by double digits. Many view this case as a political prosecution by Biden of his top and most formidable political rival.

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