Special Counsel prosecutors smack down Trump's request for indefinite delay to trial start date

July 16, 2023
Ben Marquis

It was about a week ago that attorneys for former President Donald Trump filed a motion that essentially requested an indefinite delay to the trial start date in his classified documents case, at least until after the 2024 election, and cited a number of different reasons in support of such a delay, some more compelling than others.

Special Counsel Jack Smith's team just filed a motion in response to that request which knocked down each of the arguments for delay put forward by Trump's team and urged the judge overseeing the case to stick with the government's proposed trial start date in December 2023, the Conservative Brief reported.

Trump attorneys requested indefinite delay to trial

When District Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed by President Trump in 2020, first took over the case, she tentatively scheduled a trial start date for August that the special counsel team then suggested should be moved back until December to allow adequate time for pre-trial motions and preparation.

That proposal was opposed by Trump's attorneys with a July 10 motion that sought an indefinite delay to the trial start and offered up a variety of reasons why the trial should be delayed until at least after the 2024 election, in which the defendant, Trump, is the leading candidate and likely nominee for the Republican Party.

Some of those reasons included "novel" and unprecedented legal issues, the sheer volume of materials to be reviewed during discovery, the lengthy process for dealing with classified information in a courtroom setting, the possibility that future motions might result in a dismissal, the difficulties in seating an unbiased jury and obtaining a fair trial during an election season, and the full schedules of Trump's campaign and his attorneys' other cases, among other things.

Trump's arguments for delay "borders on frivolous"

Yet, according to Politico, the special counsel's team just responded to the Trump team's request for an "open-ended" preliminary process by urging Judge Cannon to reject the "borderline frivolous" arguments put forward that, in their view, were unworthy of any real consideration.

"Defendants Trump and Nauta claim unequivocally that they cannot receive a fair trial prior to the conclusion of the next presidential election, urge the Court to withdraw the current scheduling Order (ECF No. 28), and request that the Court not even consider a new trial date until some unspecified later time," the special counsel's July 13 response motion stated. "There is no basis in law or fact for proceeding in such an indeterminate and open-ended fashion, and the Defendants provide none. For the reasons discussed below and in the Government’s Motion, the Court should reset the trial date in this action for December 11, 2023."

With regard to Trump's citation of the President Records Act in his defense, prosecutors said that "any argument that it mandates dismissal of the Indictment or forms a defense to the charges here borders on frivolous. The PRA is not a criminal statute, and in no way purports to address the retention of national security information."

"The Defendants are, of course, free to make whatever arguments they like for dismissal of the Indictment, and the Government will respond promptly," they continued. "But they should not be permitted to gesture at a baseless legal argument, call it “novel,” and then claim that the Court will require an indefinite continuance in order to resolve it."

"The Court should not indulge" Trump's arguments for delay

The special counsel's motion went on to downplay the volume of materials in the discovery process as well as the procedures for handling classified materials and insisted that all of it was being turned over in an expedited fashion with ample time for thorough review by the defense team, and seemed to chide the defense attorneys for not already obtaining necessary security clearances as the reason for any delays.

It also argued that all of the other claims from the defense were "meritless" and did not warrant indefinite delay, as the judge couldn't be expected to consider the likelihood of success for pre-trial motions that hadn't yet been filed, that difficulties with seating an unbiased jury would remain even after the election, and that "the Court should not indulge" consideration of Trump's campaign schedule or his attorneys' other trial schedules as a basis for delay.

"For all of these reasons, the Court should reject Defendants’ invitation to defer consideration of a trial date, and should set jury selection to begin on December 11, 2023," the prosecutors concluded.

"Delicate position" for Judge Cannon

Following the initial filing of Trump's attorneys seeking an indefinite delay, Time magazine reported that the seemingly obvious, if unspoken, theory behind that request is that if Trump prevails in the 2024 election and becomes president again, he could conceivably pardon himself or appoint leaders to the Justice Department who would summarily drop all charges against him.

Yet, despite the special counsel's complete rejection of all of Trump's arguments for delay, Time noted that some of the stated reasons were valid -- such as the volume of documents to be reviewed and conflicting schedules -- and further pointed out that all eyes will be focused on the "delicate position" for Judge Cannon, who presumably wants to give Trump as fair a trial as possible without appearing to grant him preferential treatment other defendants wouldn't ordinarily receive.

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