Special Counsel Smith's demand for mid-December defense disclosure deadline in Trump documents case denied by judge

November 17, 2023
Ben Marquis

Special Counsel Jack Smith suffered a setback this week in his effort to prosecute former President Donald Trump over his alleged unlawful retention of classified government documents after leaving the White House in 2021.

Smith's prosecutors had urged the presiding judge to set a mid-December deadline for Trump's attorneys to disclose what classified evidence they may use during the trial next year, but that request was quickly rejected by the judge, ABC News reported.

Instead, the judge said she wouldn't address that particular issue until a March 1 scheduling conference, which further signals that the actual trial is highly unlikely to start in May next year, as had been originally planned when Trump was initially indicted in June.

Prosecutors demand December deadline for defense disclosure requirement

According to the Washington Examiner, at issue here is a particular defense disclosure requirement within what is known as the Classified Information Procedures Act, which governs how classified materials are handled in legal settings with a specific multi-part sequential process that must be strictly adhered to.

Part of CIPA Section 5 is a requirement that defense attorneys notify the prosecutors of any classified materials they may use as evidence for the defense during the trial, and Special Counsel Smith's team filed a motion on Wednesday that asked the judge to set Dec. 18 as the deadline for Trump's attorneys to fulfill that mandate.

The prosecutors argued in the motion that "Providing such notice by a set, near-term date will facilitate the completion of CIPA litigation before the May 20, 2024 trial date."

Motion denied, deadlines will be addressed in March hearing

Except, it was just last week that District Judge Aileen Cannon issued an order pushing back virtually all of the outstanding pre-trial deadlines, including those in the CIPA process.

That decision was made in light of the condensed timeline of the initial schedule she had set, the time-consuming nature of the step-by-step CIPA process, as well as related issues that some of the defense lawyers were having in accessing and fully reviewing the voluminous amount of evidence, some of which is classified, that was previously turned over by prosecutors as part of the discovery process.

Thus, in a "paperless order" on Thursday, Cannon ruled that she was "denying without prejudice" -- meaning the issue can be raised again at a later date -- the motion filed a day earlier by prosecutors that called for the mid-December disclosure deadline.

"To the extent the Special Counsel's motion seeks reconsideration in part of the Court's November 10, 2023, Order 215, that request is denied," the judge wrote.

She added, "CIPA Section 5 deadlines, and all other pre-trial deadlines not included in the first batch of pre-trial deadlines contained in the Court's revised schedule 215, will be set following the March 1, 2024, scheduling conference."

Highly unlikely that classified documents trial will begin in May 2024

The Messenger reported that this latest order from Judge Cannon seems to further confirm the growing consensus that former President Trump's classified documents trial will not actually begin in May 2024, as had been originally scheduled.

Though the judge had declined a request last week from Trump's attorneys to go ahead and reschedule the trial start date, she nonetheless indicated that she would address that and several other matters during the March 1 scheduling conference.

That reality -- that Trump is highly unlikely to face trial over his retention of classified in May, and in fact may not stand trial until after the 2024 election is held -- has begun to sink in for the anti-Trump crowd, and as usual, they are aghast and furious that the former president they so despise has scored yet another, albeit temporary and minor, victory in court.

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