By Caden Pearson
Special Counsel Jack Smith has requested a delay in the classified documents trial involving former President Donald Trump, proposing a new trial start date of Dec. 11.
The request asks for the trial to be delayed by four months because there is classified information involved. To handle this information, Trump’s lawyers need to get security clearances, and that process takes time.
Interim security clearances are currently being processed and should be granted within 48 hours after Trump’s lawyers submit the required forms. However, obtaining the final clearance to access a few specific classified documents may take anywhere from 45 to 60 days.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon set the trial date for Aug. 14, which is about seven weeks away. Although defendants have the right to a prompt trial, there are situations where parties can ask for more time, as is the case here.
To access most of the classified information relevant to the case, Trump’s lawyers need security clearances. Smith stated that he has conferred with Trump’s attorneys, and they have expressed no opposition to the delay in the trial date. However, it is anticipated that Trump’s legal team will submit their own motion expressing their concerns and objections to the government’s suggested dates.
Smith’s motion noted that the government has promptly provided unclassified discovery materials to the defense, including evidence obtained through subpoenas, warrants, grand jury testimony transcripts, witness interviews, relevant documents, and closed-circuit television footage obtained during the investigation.
“Even with the prompt production the government has arranged, the inclusion of additional time for defense counsel to review and digest the discovery, to make their own decisions about any production to the government, and for the government to review the same, is reasonable and appropriate,” the motion states (pdf).
Request for Classified Information Security Officer
The motion clarifies that the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) has implications for the trial proceedings, as it introduces additional time requirements specific to cases involving classified information. Under CIPA, parties can request a pretrial conference to discuss any possible issues related to the prosecution of the case concerning classified information.
Because the case against Trump contains classified defense material, Smith also filed a motion (pdf) requesting a pretrial conference and the appointment of a Classified Information Security Officer. According to the motion, CIPA will determine how the court manages the discovery of classified information and establishes guidelines for determining the admissibility of such information in the trial.
Smith’s motion stressed that proceeding with the trial on the originally scheduled date would not allow enough time for adequate preparation, which would negatively impact both the defense and the government’s interests.
While the delay may have implications for Trump’s right to a speedy trial, Smith argued that the proposed extension better serves the interests of justice.
Cannon’s June 20 order setting the trial date specified that any requests for an extension must include specific information, such as whether the reasons for granting the motion would outweigh Trump’s right to a speedy trial.
Motion to Stop Trump From Communicating With Witnesses
Smith also submitted a separate motion seeking approval to file a confidential list of witnesses, which has been shared with Trump’s legal team, specifying individuals whom Trump and his co-defendant, Walt Nauta, are forbidden from communicating with.
During Trump’s arraignment on June 13, where both he and Nauta pleaded not guilty, the court instructed Trump not to engage in any communication with Nauta or the witnesses involved in the case. Trump himself did not address the court, but his lawyer, Todd Blanche, spoke on his behalf, stating, “We most certainly enter a plea of not guilty.”
During the proceedings, Smith presented evidence indicating that Trump allegedly violated federal law. The evidence suggested that he retained sensitive documents beyond his term in office, shared them with individuals who were not authorized to access such information, and obstructed the investigation by directing Nauta to relocate boxes at Mar-a-Lago instead of surrendering all the materials to the authorities.
Trump has maintained his innocence and frames the indictment as his chief 2024 presidential rival, President Joe Biden, weaponizing the Department of Justice against him. Trump told a rally in Georgia that the Biden administration’s actions “will go down among the most horrific abuses of power in the history of our country.”
While the trial’s jury selection was scheduled to begin on Aug. 14, it was anticipated that the proceedings would be delayed due to anticipated pretrial motions from Trump’s legal team.
Legal experts have suggested that the trial could potentially extend beyond the 2024 presidential election.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.