On Thursday, the Justice Department asked a Florida federal judge to ignore former President Donald Trump’s request to indefinitely delay a federal criminal case over his handling of confidential government documents.
“There is no legal or factual basis for litigation in such an uncertain and indefinite manner, and the defendants do not provide them,” Special Counsel Jack Smith said in a statement.
In an 11-page petition filed in Florida on Thursday, Smith refuted a claim by Trump’s lawyers that a trial during the 2024 presidential election would jeopardize the viability of a fair jury selection process.
Prosecutors said there was “no reason to believe the suit”, arguing that “the government readily admits that jury selection here may require additional protocols (such as a questionnaire) and may take longer than in other cases, but these are reasons to start the process earlier than later.”
Judge Eileen Cannon set a trial date for August 14, but prosecutors asked for a delay until December. Trump’s legal team said Monday night that neither deadline was acceptable, but did not offer another start date. Trump’s lawyers said in a statement late Monday that his trial should not take place as scheduled and possibly not until after the election.
Defense lawyers have accused the government of trying to “speed up” Trump’s trial, even though it was Cannon who set the trial date for August 14. Smith also responded to the defense’s allegations, saying they were “completely wrong”.
“A speedy trial is a fundamental requirement of the Constitution and Code of the United States, not a government preference that must be justified,” Smith wrote. He noted that under the law, “any deviation from the 70-day time limit must be justified”, that is, the right of the accused to an expedited trial within 70 days after the indictment.
In a filing Thursday, the government also asked Judge Eileen Cannon to continue jury selection on December 11, 2023.
Also among the reasons Trump’s lawyers cited in support of the delay was the volume of information released by the government, which said they had already received 428,300 tapes and CCTV footage from the government in nine months.
The Special Prosecutor pointed out: “While the government output included over 800,000 pages, the set of ‘key’ documents was only about 4,500 pages.” explaining that “the government only received footage from selected cameras (many of which do not record continuously) from selected dates during the period for which it received the footage.”
Trump’s lawyers also argued that the law under which he was charged, the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), creates several complications and they do not have security clearance attorneys to view classified information.
The Special Counsel indicated that the government would have made the first package of classified information available on July 10 if counsel had obtained a security clearance. But in order to obtain a temporary permit, the lawyer had to complete and submit the necessary forms. By Thursday, only two had “completed this task.” Smith noted that the court deadline for them to do so is Thursday.
Smith also said that some of the classified material and testimony containing classified information will be sent to the SCIF (Sensitive Information Facility) in Miami “early next week” so they can be reviewed by defense attorneys with permission. As soon as the defense attorney receives final clearances, the rest of the Mar-a-Lago documents will also be transferred to SCIF Miami.
Trump pleaded not guilty to 37 counts related to alleged mishandling of sensitive government documents.