Lawyers for former President Donald Trump and prosecutors sparred in court Tuesday over when his landmark criminal trial concerning the mishandling of classified documents should begin, but the judge put off an immediate decision.
Judge Aileen Cannon said she would issue a written order after the nearly two-hour hearing in federal court in Fort Pierce, Florida, where lawyers for Trump pressed for an indefinite delay of a trial date.
Trump's lawyers say they need more time to prepare for what they describe as a complex case with a huge amount of evidence to review. They also argue the former president can't get a fair trial ahead of the 2024 election, in which he is seeking to reclaim the White House.
Prosecutors have proposed that the trial begin in December, saying the case is not complex and there’s no need for a lengthy delay. Prosecutor David Harbach told the judge that Trump’s legal team has repeatedly suggested he should be treated differently because he’s running for president.
“He should be treated like everyone else,” Harbach said.
It was the first time arguments were held in front of Cannon in the unprecedented federal prosecution of the former president, who is also facing charges in a separate case in New York. Cannon has been under increased scrutiny since a court ruling last year that critics said was unduly favorable to Trump.
Trump's co-defendant, Walt Nauta, attended the hearing, but Trump did not. He was traveling Tuesday to Iowa, where he was taping a town hall with Fox News host Sean Hannity.
The court date unfolded hours after Trump disclosed that he had received a target letter from the Justice Department in a separate investigation into efforts by him and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Such letters often precede an indictment.
Trump and Nauta have pleaded not guilty to a 38-count indictment that accuses them of conspiring to hide classified documents from Justice Department investigators that were taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago at the end of Trump's time in office in January 2021.
Cannon also presided over a lawsuit that the Trump team filed last year over the August 2022 FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. Cannon drew criticism and second-guessing from legal experts for granting Trump's request for a special master to conduct an independent review of the classified documents removed by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago.
A three-judge federal appeals court later overruled that order and said she had lacked the authority for such a ruling.