Former President Donald Trump is facing a trial on charges of breaching the Espionage Act for his mishandling of classified national security secrets, but a date remains unknown as of Tuesday afternoon.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon said she plans to issue a written ruling on the matter following the first scheduled pretrial hearing, which took place starting 2 p.m. ET Tuesday, according to CNN.
Trump didn’t attend Tuesday’s hearing but Walt Nauta, Trump’s longtime personal aide accused of assisting him in concealing classified documents, was present, according to Politico.
Trump’s lawyers argue that a fair trial cannot be conducted before November 2024 and asked for an indefinite delay. With Trump planning to centralize power within the executive branch if he’s re-elected and to remove some control from Congress and the judicial branch, a delayed trial could allow for Trump to drop the charges or pardon himself.
Cannon said Tuesday she is open to a trial date that is further out than the December 2023 timing federal prosecutors are seeking, the CNN report said. At the same time, Cannon is skeptical of the argument that Trump cannot receive a fair trial while campaigning for the White House, the report said.
A trial date before the election would put the former president’s fate squarely in the hands of the public by deciding that a jury hear the case and issue a verdict prior to Americans heading to the polls in November 2024.
Trump’s myriad legal woes haven’t hurt him in opinion polling, with the former president leading his political rivals by hefty margins. Recent polling shows President Joe Biden is leading both Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a hypothetical race, however, indicating Trump’s legal troubles may be bolstering Biden’s chances.
Cannon is also tasked with deciding how classified documents would be handled during a trial, weighing the implications of jury members possibly gaining knowledge of the national secrets contained within the evidence. Cannon has to take into account that it may be difficult to convince a jury of the dangers of mishandling classified documents without revealing what was contained within the files.
Trump entered a not guilty plea last month at his arraignment and has repeatedly said he is innocent, referring to this case and other cases against him as a “Witch Hunt.”
Despite Trump’s claims, Smith continues to press on with his investigations. On Tuesday, the former president revealed that he had received a target letter from Smith related to Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election result, which could result in Trump’s third indictment.
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Edited by Arnab Nandy
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