Judge sets Aug. 14 trial date for Trump documents case

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A Florida judge has set an initial Aug. 14 trial date for former President Trump in the Justice Department’s (DOJ) case over his retention of classified documents.

Judge Aileen Cannon set the preliminary trial date for roughly two months after Trump’s arraignment at her courtroom in Fort Pierce, Fla. The judge said in a Tuesday filing that all pre-trial motions must be filed by July 24.

Trump and his team are expected to push to delay the trial through those motions, however, making it unlikely that the Aug. 14 date will hold.

Trump pleaded not guilty last Tuesday to charges on 37 counts following a DOJ indictment alleging he violated both the Espionage Act and obstructed justice in taking classified records from his presidency and refusing to return them. He is also facing charges for concealing documents and misleading investigators.

More Trump indictment coverage from The Hill

Special counsel Jack Smith has said Trump’s trial could be completed in as little as 21 days.

But Trump — known for successfully delaying numerous prior civil suits — has a number of options for time-eating challenges in the case.

The classified documents at issue in the case ignite a separate discovery process under the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), including a requirement under Section 5 of the law that requires Trump’s team to give a preview of their defense.

“Trump’s team will likely argue that the CIPA Section 5 notice requirement is unconstitutional, because it requires them to give some sort of notice of their defense to the government. That argument has been resoundingly rejected by the courts, but it will still be made by the Trump team,” Brian Greer, a former CIA attorney, previously told The Hill.

Another likely battle is whether the prosecution can use the silent witness rule — a method of having experts testify in broad strokes about the classified records so that they can avoid declassifying them or making them public.  

Trump’s team is likely to push to declassify the evidence in the hopes the DOJ will drop some of its charges. 

“They will want to put pressure on the government to have to declassify as much information as possible for trial,” Greer said. “If Trump’s lawyers get the court to rule that any document that he is charged with has to be declassified in order to be used at trial, it might cause the Department of Justice to rethink some charges.”  

Trump’s legal team will also need to secure clearances ahead of the discovery process, a task that even when expedited will cause delays.

The date set by Cannon falls in line with a defendant’s right to trial within 70 days of arraignment. As Trump’s team files motions that ignite new deadlines, the trial date will get pushed back. 

Cannon’s order is the second in the case in as many days; federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart sided with the DOJ on Monday in ordering Trump to refrain from disclosing any evidence in the trial. His order also only allows Trump to view the classified discovery in the case under the supervision of his attorneys. 

Updated at 9:26 a.m. EDT.

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