Former president Donald Trump’s lawyers argued in new court papers that for a host of legal and political reasons, his classified-documents trial should be pushed beyond the December timeframe proposed by the Justice Department, and possibly after the November 2024 election.
In a 12-page filing late Monday night, Trump’s lawyers Christopher Kise and Todd Blanche claimed that putting the former president on trial later this year for alleged mishandling of classified papers and obstruction will be “unreasonable, telling, and would result in a miscarriage of justice.”
The lawyers argued that no trial date be set for the time being, while the two sides work through pre-trial motions and hearings. To that end, Trump’s defense team offered a host of reasons for pushing the trial into at least 2024, and suggest it should be pushed even further, until after the presidential election in order to ensure a fair jury.
“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,” the lawyers wrote, arguing the stakes are simply too high to hold such a trial during a presidential campaign.
“Here, there is simply no question any trial of this action during the pendency of a Presidential election will impact both the outcome of that election and, importantly, the ability of the Defendants to obtain a fair trial,” Kise and Blanche wrote.
The current front-runner in the Republican presidential field, Trump was indicted last month on 37 separate charges, setting the stage for a high-profile, high-stakes trial that is likely to test not just his own popularity within his party and the country but the criminal justice system’s ability to seek and win a conviction of a former president.
Special counsel Jack Smith has argued for a December trial date in court papers, saying the case “involves straightforward theories of liability, and does not present novel questions of fact or law.”
Trump’s lawyers disagreed, arguing the case hinges on untested legal questions about the Presidential Records Act.
The judge in the case, Aileen Cannon, has scheduled a hearing for Friday, but lawyers for Trump and his co-defendant, Waltine “Walt” Nauta, have suggested delaying that until next week in order to accommodate the schedule of Nauta’s lawyer.
Trump and Nauta, the new filing argues, are going to be too busy with a presidential campaign to properly prepare for a criminal trial at the end of this year.
Running for president, Trump’s lawyers wrote, “requires a tremendous amount of time and energy, and that effort will continue until the election on November 5, 2024. Mr. Nauta’s job requires him to accompany President Trump during most campaign trips around the country. This schedule makes trial preparation with both of the Defendants challenging. Such preparation requires significant planning and time, making the current schedule untenable.”
The defense lawyers also argue that Trump cannot realistically be prepared to go to trial later this year, given the other trials he is facing — including a March 2024 criminal trial in Manhattan on state charges related to hush money payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign, and a civil trial, scheduled to begin in October in New York, over fraud allegations leveled by the New York attorney general.
Those issues, in addition to the large amounts of evidence that need to be reviewed, and the complexity of preparing for a trial involving classified material, means a trial in just six months would be unfair, the lawyers wrote.