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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Judge in Trump documents case sets tentative trial date as soon as August

By Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Charlie Savage

The federal judge presiding over the prosecution of former President Donald Trump in the classified documents case set an aggressive schedule Tuesday, ordering a trial to begin as soon as Aug. 14.

The timeline set by Judge Aileen Cannon is likely to be delayed by extensive pretrial litigation — including over how to handle classified material — and its brisk pace seems in keeping with a schedule set under the Speedy Trial Act. In each of four other criminal trials the judge has overseen that were identified in a New York Times review, she has initially set a relatively quick trial date and later pushed it back.

The early moves by Cannon, a relatively inexperienced jurist who was appointed by Trump in 2020, are being particularly closely watched. She disrupted the documents investigation last year with several rulings favorable to the former president before a conservative appeals court overturned her, saying she never had legitimate legal authority to intervene.

Brandon L. Van Grack, a former federal prosecutor who has worked on complex criminal matters involving national security, said the trial date was “unlikely to hold” considering that the process of turning over classified evidence to the defense in discovery had not yet begun. Still, he said, Cannon appeared to be showing that she intended to do what she could to push the case to trial quickly.

“It signals that the court is at least trying to do everything it can to move the case along and that it’s important that the case proceed quickly,” Van Grack said. “Even though it’s unlikely to hold, it’s at least a positive signal — positive in the sense that all parties and the public should want this case to proceed as quickly as possible.”

But it is not clear that the defense wants the case to proceed quickly. Trump’s strategy in legal matters has long been to delay them, and the federal case against him is unlikely to be an exception. If a trial drags past the 2024 election and Trump wins the race, he could, in theory, try to pardon himself — or he could direct his attorney general to drop the charges and wipe out the case.

In public remarks after the indictment against Trump and one of his aides, Walt Nauta, was filed two weeks ago in U.S. District Court in Miami, the special counsel, Jack Smith, who oversaw the investigation, said he wanted a speedy trial.

The schedule that Cannon set in her order Tuesday clearly does that, requesting that all pretrial motions be filed by July 24.

She also ruled that the trial — and all the hearings in the case — will be held at her home courthouse in Fort Pierce, Florida, a small town in the northern portion of the Southern District of Florida. Trump’s arraignment was held in the federal courthouse in Miami.

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