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Prosecutors push back on Trump’s claims that documents trial should be delayed

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Federal prosecutors said former President Donald Trump’s open-ended request to defer a trial date until after the 2024 election is unjustified in a case that alleges he illegally kept classified documents.

Trump wants to postpone any trial on allegations he illegally kept and concealed classified documents at Mar-a-Lago until after the 2024 presidential election. Attorneys for Trump and alleged co-conspirator Walt Nauta previously filed a motion that detailed the reasons they want to push back the trial, which is set for December 2023. The motion cited a number of reasons for the delay, including the sheer amount of discover materials in the case, which so far include 833,450 pages of records and nine months of security camera footage. Defense attorneys also said that ultimately a trial won’t be needed anyway.

Prosecutors led by special counsel Jack Smith pushed back on those claims in a response to the motion from the former president.

“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, and request that the Court not even consider a new trial date until some unspecified later time. There is no basis in law or fact for proceeding in such an indeterminate and open-ended fashion, and the Defendants provide none,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors said the trial date should be Dec. 11, 2023.

“The Defendants chide the Government for seeking an ‘expedited’ trial, but in doing so they have it exactly backward,” according to the federal response. “A speedy trial is a foundational requirement of the Constitution and the United States Code, not a Government preference that must be justified.”

Prosecutors also said Trump’s claims that the Presidential Records Act will lead to dismissal of the case was incorrect.

“As for the impact of the Presidential Records Act on this prosecution, any argument that it mandates dismissal of the Indictment or forms a defense to the charges here borders on frivolous,” prosecutors wrote. “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. 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.”

Trump posted again Monday that the Presidential Records Act protects him.

“IF I’M BEING PROSECUTED OVER DOCUMENTS, AND I SHOULDN’T BE IN THAT I COME UNDER THE PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS ACT, WHY IS JOE BIDEN NOT BEING PROSECUTED?,” Trump wrote on Truth Social.

Prosecutors also were unmoved by Trump’s claims that the volume of discovery materials was too much for a December trial date.

“The legal issues Defendants raise do not justify deviation from a speedy trial date, much less open-ended deferral of considering one,” prosecutors wrote. “Although the Government’s production included over 800,000 pages, the set of ‘key’ documents was only about 4,500 pages. The Government similarly identified to the Defendants a small subset of ‘key’ CCTV footage referenced in the Indictment or otherwise pertinent to the case.”

Prosecutors disagreed with Trump’s claims that he won’t be able to get a fair trial during the election cycle.

“Moreover, the conditions that Defendants argue will make it a challenge to select a jury will not appreciably change after the completion of the election,” prosecutors wrote. “The Government’s position is that the best way to move this case forward consistent with the Defendants’ rights and the public’s interest is to set a trial date now, with interim deadlines for [Classified Information Procedures Act] procedures and motion practice leading up to that date.”

Prosecutors also said that Trump’s busy campaign schedule wasn’t a reason to put things on pause.

“The demands of Defendants’ professional schedules do not provide a basis to delay trial in this case,” prosecutors wrote. “Many indicted defendants have demanding jobs that require a considerable amount of their time and energy, or a significant amount of travel. The Speedy Trial Act contemplates no such factor as a basis for a continuance, and the Court should not indulge it here.”

Trump pleaded not guilty to 37 counts that allege he kept sensitive military documents, shared them with people who didn’t have security clearance, and tried to get around the government’s efforts to get them back. He is charged with 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information along with conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, corruptly concealing a document or record, concealing a document in a federal investigation, scheme to conceal and false statements and representations.

The 49-page indictment laid out the charges against Trump and his valet and alleged co-conspirator Walt Nauta. Trump was charged with keeping classified documents after leaving office and later obstructing the government’s efforts to get them back. The indictment contains specific dates and times with to-the-minute details of where the documents were stored, where they were moved, and who was involved.

Among the records were 197 that contained classified markings, including 98 marked “secret” and 30 marked “top secret.” The “top secret” designation means that unauthorized disclosure “reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage” to national security,” according to the indictment. Trump turned those records over to the National Archives and Records Administration on Jan. 17, 2022, in response to demands from that federal agency.

On June 3, 2022, an attorney for Trump provided the Federal Bureau of Investigation with 38 additional documents with classified markings. And during a raid of Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, 2022, the FBI recovered 102 additional documents with classified markings.

While the U.S. Secret Service provided security to Trump while he was at his Palm Beach property, Trump never told the agency that classified documents were stored there, according to the indictment. Mar-a-Lago hosted 150 social events – such as weddings, fundraisers and movie premieres for tens of thousands of guests from January 2021, when Trump left office, through the FBI raid on Aug. 8, 2022. Mar-a-Lago had about 150 employees during that time, prosecutors said in the indictment.

Prosecutors allege the documents belong to some of the nation’s most secret agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, the Department of Energy and the Department of State.

The documents contained information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of the United States and other allied nations, U.S. nuclear programs, plans for possible retaliation in case of an attack and potential U.S. vulnerabilities, according to the indictment.

Trump stored the boxes in several locations at Mar-a-Lago, his social club with 25 guest rooms in Palm Beach. The boxes that contained classified documents were stored in a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom and a storage room, prosecutors alleged in the indictment.

The club was not authorized to store classified documents.

Prosecutors further alleged that Trump showed classified documents to people not authorized to see such records. In one case on July 21, 2021, at the Bedminster Club in New Jersey, Trump allegedly showed a writer, a publisher and two staff members classified documents. During the recorded interview, Trump said that the documents were “highly classified” and that could have declassified them while president, but could no longer do so after leaving office, according to the indictment. In August or September 2021, prosecutors allege Trump showed a representative of his political action committee a classified map of a country.

In April, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts in New York related to charges he paid hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels through a lawyer before the 2016 presidential election and covered it up as a legal expense before being elected president.

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