Judge overseeing Trump documents case agrees to push first pretrial conference
Washington — The federal judge overseeing the criminal case involving former President Donald Trump's alleged mishandling of sensitive government records agreed to postpone the first pretrial conference scheduled in the proceedings to next week.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon said in a brief order Tuesday that the conference, which involves matters relating to the use of classified material as the case proceeds, would be pushed back four days, from Friday to July 18. The proceeding is set to take place at the federal courthouse in Fort Pierce, Florida, where Cannon sits.
The order comes after Walt Nauta, an aide to Trump who prosecutors name as a co-conspirator in the case, filed a request Monday to delay the conference, as his lawyer, Stanley Woodward, is involved in a bench trial that began this week in Washington, D.C. The filing also indicates that Woodward has not yet received a security clearance.
Trump's lawyers did not oppose the request. But special counsel Jack Smith and his team argued that "an indefinite continuance is unnecessary, will inject additional delay in this case, and is contrary to the public interest." Federal prosecutors also wrote in a filing that Woodward has yet to complete the necessary form to obtain a security clearance.
Lawyers for Trump later told the court that the parties, including Nauta's attorney and federal prosecutors, could meet for the conference on July 18.
Trump was indicted by a federal grand jury last month and has been charged with 37 felony counts, including 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information, related to his handling of government documents discovered at his South Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, after he left the White House in January 2021.
The former president has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Nauta, who was charged with six felony counts, pleaded not guilty during his first appearance last week.
Since Trump's arraignment, his lawyers and the Justice Department have been wrangling over when to start a trial. Cannon initially set an Aug. 14 trial date, but Smith's team asked for it be pushed back to mid-December.
Then, on Monday, Trump's lawyers urged Cannon to postpone the start of the trial "until after substantive motions have been presented and adjudicated." The former president's legal team did not put forward a timeline for when they would like the trial to begin, but suggested proceedings could take place after the 2024 presidential election.
"This extraordinary case presents a serious challenge to both the fact and perception of our American democracy," they wrote. "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."
Trump's lawyers claimed his candidacy could make it difficult to seat an impartial jury during the 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," they wrote.