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Trump seeks to postpone documents trial until after 2024 election

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Former President Donald 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 filed a motion late Monday 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.

“This extraordinary case presents a serious challenge to both the fact and perception of our American democracy,” defense attorneys wrote in the motion. “The Court now presides over a prosecution advanced by the administration of a sitting President against his chief political rival, himself a leading candidate for the Presidency of the United States. Therefore, a measured consideration and timeline that allows for a careful and complete review of the procedures that led to this indictment and the unprecedented legal issues presented herein best serves the interests of the Defendants and the public.”

Trump is leading early polls for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. If Trump gets the nomination, he would likely vie with President Joe Biden for the 2024 presidential election.

Defense attorneys further argued that no trial would be needed.

“The intersection between the Presidential Records Act and the various criminal statutes at issue has never been addressed by any court, and in the Defendants’ view, will result in a dismissal of the indictment,” they wrote in the motion.

Defense attorneys also said special counsel Jack Smith’s team proposed schedule for the case would interfere with Trump’s defense in other pending cases and Trump’s campaign schedule. They argued any trial during the election cycle would make it difficult for Trump to get a fair trial.

“Proceeding to trial during the pendency of a Presidential election cycle wherein opposing candidates are effectively (if not literally) directly adverse to one another in this action will create extraordinary challenges in the jury selection process and limit the Defendants’ ability to secure a fair and impartial adjudication,” according to the motion.

The defense motion called the prosecution’s proposed schedule “simply untenable.”

Defense attorneys cited the volume of the discovery materials in the case and noted that other trials, including that of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, had been allowed additional time to process discovery materials. Defense attorneys said that prosecutors have yet to complete the discovery process and that the first production of discovery materials would take months to review.

“That initial production was substantial and voluminous. Therein, the Government produced more than 428,300 records (in excess of 833,450 pages) consisting of approximately 122,650 emails (including attachments) and 305,670 documents gathered from over ninety (90) separate custodians,” according to the defense motion. “The initial production also included some 57 terabytes of compressed raw CCTV footage (so far there is approximately nine months of CCTV footage, but the final number is not yet certain).”

Defense attorneys also said they want the public to be able to see all the evidence if a trial is needed.

“In general, the Defendants believe there should simply be no ‘secret’ evidence, nor any facts concealed from public view relative to the prosecution of a leading Presidential candidate by his political opponent,” they wrote in the motion. “Our democracy demands no less than full transparency. But it is nonetheless premature to even engage in the evaluation of such issues and the Court should therefore postpone its consideration until the Defendants are able to participate in an informed debate.”

Because the case presents “novel, complex, and unique legal issues, most of which are matters of first impression,” the existing trial schedule should be withdrawn, defense attorneys said. They also cited Trump’s other pending legal matters.

“Finally, previously scheduled trials in other matters for both President Trump and defense counsel make it nearly impossible to prepare for this trial by December 2023,” according to the motion.

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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