Trump scores a victory in classified documents case as judge agrees to revised schedule that will likely delay trial

 November 11, 2023

Former President Donald Trump just scored a win and likely temporary reprieve in his federal classified documents criminal case in South Florida.

The judge presiding over the case ruled Friday in favor of a request by Trump's defense attorneys to push back by several months the deadlines for various pre-trial motions and hearings, according to The Guardian.

And, while the judge declined, for now, to also push back the scheduled trial start date currently set for May 2024, a decision to delay the start of the trial -- potentially even until after the 2024 election -- now seems inevitable given the timing of the new pre-trial schedule.

The complexities of dealing with classified information

In light of the purported classified nature of some of the government documents that former President Trump was criminally charged for keeping in his possession after leaving the White House in 2021, The Guardian noted that the case is governed by a series of complex rules and steps as specified in the Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA.

The CIPA guidelines include a seven-step sequential process that must be followed in order and is both complicated and lengthy, which prompted Trump's defense attorneys, as well as attorneys for his co-defendants, to ask the presiding judge for additional time for preparation and to ensure compliance with the additional rules.

In a nine-page order issued on Friday, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon granted a motion for a revised pre-trial schedule but denied without prejudice -- meaning the issue can be raised again later -- a motion to adjourn and dismiss the entire trial and held off for the time being on setting a new start date for the trial next year.

Other problems and "logistical challenges" have already caused some delays

In the Friday order, Judge Cannon first outlined the background of the case up until the current point and repeatedly made note of how complex and extensive the case had turned out to be thus far, much more so than initial estimates, given the additional requirements in dealing with classified materials under the CIPA rules.

She also took stock of earlier delays in defense attorneys being granted necessary security clearances and the massive amount of information included in the still-ongoing discovery process, which so far includes "approximately 1.3 million pages of unclassified discovery, approximately 60 terabytes of closed-circuit television footage spanning at least nine months, and 5,500 pages of classified discovery."

Cannon further highlighted other "logistical challenges" that posed potential problems, including the lack of an "accredited facility" nearby to securely review classified materials -- construction of which only began after Trump's indictment and is slated to be completed this month -- as well as the strong likelihood that the next step in the CIPA process will be extensive and time-consuming.

After considering all of that and more in conjunction with the request for a revised schedule and/or adjournment of the trial, the judge wrote, "The Court deems it most prudent, given the evolving complexities in this matter, to adjust the first batch of pre-trial deadlines as specified in the chart below and to deny without prejudice Defendants’ premature Motion to adjourn the trial date."

Remaining items on pre-trial schedule pushed back by several months

The Guardian noted that the new pre-trial schedule, in comparison with the originally ordered schedule in July, shows that nearly all of the remaining items on the schedule -- including some things that were supposed to have already been dealt with last month -- have been pushed back by three to four months and now press exceedingly close to the initially set trial start date in May.

Given how highly unlikely it now is that all of the pre-trial motions and CIPA processes will be completed prior to next May -- and in light of the fact that two of Trump's other criminal trials are scheduled to start in that same time frame -- Judge Cannon set a date of March 1 for a scheduling conference.

It is during that conference that she will almost certainly set a new trial start date that could potentially be postponed until after November 2024 so as not to interfere with the presidential election in which Trump, at least for now, is the top contender for Republicans.

Judge Cannon's decision to revise the pre-trial schedule, not to mention the near certainty that the trial start date will also be revised and delayed, is undoubtedly a win for the former president.

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