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Judge sets May 2024 trial date for Donald Trump in documents case


By Katelyn Polantz, Tierney Sneed and Kara Scannell, CNN

(CNN) — A federal judge ordered Friday that the trial in the classified documents case that special counsel Jack Smith brought against former President Donald Trump begin in May 2024.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon said that the trial could begin as early as May 20. A pretrial hearing in the case will be held on May 14.

If that timeline holds, then the trial would fall deep in the 2024 race for the White House, coming amid multiple GOP presidential primaries. It would be a rebuke to Trump and his legal team, who wanted to postpone the trial until after the general election takes place in November 2024.

However, Cannon’s order also means that the case will unfold at a far slower speed than what Smith’s team was proposing, when it recommended a fast-paced timeline that would start the trial in mid-December of this year. Such a schedule would have a trial wrap up before primary voting gets underway in the 2024 election, where Trump is the leading GOP candidate.

The vast majority of state primaries will be finished by mid-May, although Nebraska, Maryland and West Virginia are set to hold their primary elections on May 14. Oregon votes the following week and a handful of states, including New Jersey, are now scheduled to vote on June 4. During his first presidential run, Trump effectively clinched the nomination at the end of May 2016 – before formally becoming the party’s nominee in July at the GOP convention in Cleveland.

While it’s likely the nominating process will be essentially decided by May, recent history has plenty examples of the race remaining a delegate fight until early summer.

A Trump adviser told CNN that, given the trial date is currently set for the middle of primary season, they anticipate they’ll be able to delay the trial beyond the 2024 presidential election.

In arguing for a trial date after the election, Trump’s lawyers said at a hearing Tuesday that the public would perceive the case as Trump “squaring off” with the administration of his chief 2024 rival, President Joe Biden. Cannon made clear she was not interested in those arguments.

“Today’s order by Judge Cannon is a major setback to the DOJ’s crusade to deny President Trump a fair legal process. The extensive schedule allows President Trump and his legal team to continue fighting this empty hoax,” Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung told CNN on Friday. “Crooked Joe Biden is losing and attempting to use his weaponized DOJ against his top political rival – a disgraceful and un-American abuse of power. Crooked Joe will fail and President Trump will win back the White House for the American people.”

Trump and his aide, Walt Nauta, were charged in June, with an indictment that alleged the former president unlawfully retained national defense information and that accused both defendants of engaging in obstructive conduct. Both pleaded not guilty.

In her new order, Cannon cited the “voluminous” evidence prosecutors are turning over to the defense as well as the complexities that the classified material at the heart of the case will bring to the proceedings. She also said that the court will be “faced with extensive pre-trial motion practice on a diverse number of legal and factual issues, all in connection with a 38-count indictment.”

Nevertheless, she was not convinced by the Trump team’s arguments that those issues justified holding off setting a trial date altogether, writing that she did “not see a sufficient basis on this record to postpone entry of a scheduling order.”

Other cases against Trump playing out in lead up to classified documents trial

Under the schedule the judge issued Friday, briefing on how to handle the classified information in the case – some of which set to take place out of public view – will move forward in the late summer, through the fall and into next year. Disputes over other pre-trial issues play out in the fall and through the winter. Any fights over what evidence the jury will be shown will be hashed through the spring.

In their attempts to push off the scheduling of a trial date, Trump’s lawyers pointed to the busy calendar of proceedings the former president faces in other cases that have been brought against him.

In October 2023, Trump goes on trial in New York to defend against the New York attorney general’s civil lawsuit alleging he, his adult sons, and the Trump Organization were engaged in a $250 million fraud for inflating the values of his golf courses, hotels, and properties to obtain loans and insurance. Trump, who has denied wrongdoing, is not required to attend the trial, but his lawyer has previously left the door open that he could be called to testify. Trump sat for a day-long deposition earlier this year. The attorney general is seeking to ban Trump from doing business in New York.

Three months later, on January 15, 2024, Trump is a defendant again facing off against former magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll who sued him for defamation for statements he made denying her allegation that he raped her in a New York department store in the mid-1990s. Trump was found liable for sexual abuse and defamation this spring and ordered to pay Carroll $5 million. Her initial lawsuit, set for trial next year, is seeking more than $10 million in damages.

On March 25, Trump will face a jury for the first time in a criminal case to defend against a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office alleges Trump falsified records to cover up a reimbursement to his former fixer Michael Cohen who advanced a hush-money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to stop her from going public about a past affair days before the 2016 presidential election. Trump has denied the affair and pleaded not guilty to the charges. The judge has warned Trump that he is required to attend every day of the trial, potentially keeping him off the campaign trail for a couple of weeks.

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect that Cannon set the trial date to begin in a two-week period starting on May 20.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Alayna Treene and Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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