Trump Asks Again to Delay Documents Trial Until After Election

Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump have again asked a federal judge to postpone until after the 2024 election his trial on charges of mishandling classified documents.

In a court filing on Wednesday night, Mr. Trump’s legal team proposed moving the start of the trial to mid-November from May 20, the date set by Judge Aileen M. Cannon.

It was not the first time Mr. Trump has sought to push back the trial, in which he stands accused of illegally holding onto dozens of classified documents after leaving office and conspiring with two aides to obstruct the government’s repeated effort to retrieve them. In July, his lawyers asked Judge Cannon to put off the trial indefinitely as they grappled with the complexities of the case.

But after a flurry of court filings and a contentious hearing this summer in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla., Judge Cannon decided that the case should go in front of a jury well before the presidential race ended.

In their initial request to delay the trial, Mr. Trump’s lawyers claimed that he could not get a fair trial while he was running for office. But arguments like that were missing from his new proposal to push back the proceeding, which did not specifically mention the election. Still, the push to reschedule for mid-November 2024 was a de facto attempt to delay it until after the race was decided.

Were that to happen, it could give Mr. Trump, the current front-runner for the Republican nomination, enormous sway over the case. If the trial were delayed and Mr. Trump were to win the election, he could simply order his attorney general to drop the charges. And even if he were convicted before becoming president, he could in theory seek to pardon himself.

In their recent attempt to delay the documents case, Mr. Trump’s lawyers accused prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, of failing to meet their obligations to turn over evidence as part of the discovery process. The lawyers complained in particular that they lacked sufficient access to nine of the 32 classified documents that Mr. Trump has been charged with holding onto after he left office in violation of the Espionage Act.

Those documents, prosecutors said last week, are so sensitive that they cannot be stored even in the highly secure facility in Miami that Mr. Trump and his legal team have been using. They said the materials would need to be reviewed under strict supervision in Washington.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers also argued the delay was needed because the secure facility that was supposed to have been built for Judge Cannon to review classified materials in Fort Pierce was running at least three months behind schedule. Moreover, the lawyers claimed, Judge Cannon still lacked the necessary “electronic facilities” to write opinions and orders about the classified materials as well as “the physical space” to conduct hearings about it.

The lawyers also cited Mr. Trump’s crowded courtroom calendar as another reason to delay the documents trial, claiming that neither they nor their client could “be in two places at once.”

Mr. Trump is currently on trial in New York, facing civil charges of fraudulently inflating the value of several of his properties. One of his lawyers in that case, Christopher M. Kise, is also representing him in the documents case.

His other federal trial, in which he stands accused of trying to overturn the 2020 election, is also on the horizon. The judge in that case, Tanya S. Chutkan, has scheduled the proceeding to start on March 4. But if it is delayed in any way, that trial could easily drag into the proposed start date for the documents trial.

The appeal to Judge Cannon to delay the documents trial came a week after Mr. Trump’s legal team sought to delay the election case in Washington. They asked to push back until December their deadline — now set for next week — to file pretrial motions, saying they were still researching the “numerous novel and complex legal issues” in the case.

Federal prosecutors in Mr. Smith’s office have reacted with frustration to Mr. Trump’s attempts to delay both of the proceedings.

Last week, they filed court papers to Judge Cannon accusing Mr. Trump’s lawyers of seeking to “intentionally derail” the timing of the documents case. They made similar accusations on Monday to Judge Chutkan, who is overseeing the election interference case in Federal District Court in Washington. By asking for more time to file their motions, the prosecutors said, Mr. Trump’s lawyers were merely dragging their feet.

The former president has acknowledged in private conversations with his aides that winning the election is likely to be his best bet for emerging unscathed from the four criminal cases he is confronting. Beyond the two federal cases, Mr. Trump has been charged in state indictments of falsifying business records in New York in connection with payments to a porn actress and of tampering with the results of the 2020 election in Georgia.

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