The Justice Department (DOJ) Thursday strongly opposed a motion from former President Trump’s legal team to indefinitely delay the Mar-a-Lago trial until after the 2024 election.
“There is no basis in law or fact for proceeding in such an indeterminate and open-ended fashion, and the defendants provide none,” the Justice Department wrote.
Trump’s team offered a smattering of reasons the trial should be delayed well beyond the Dec. 11 date suggested by prosecutors, ranging from the demands on Trump’s time as a candidate for office to difficulties parsing through the evidence in the trial.
“The defendants chide the government for seeking an ‘expedited’ trial but in doing so they have it exactly backward. A speedy trial is a foundational requirement of the Constitution and the United States Code, not a Government preference that must be justified,” prosecutors wrote.
In the 11-page brief, government lawyers scold Trump’s defense team for failing to file paperwork to get the security clearance needed to review the classified documents, noting that just two of the four lawyers on the team, which includes representation for Trump’s accused co-conspirator Walk Nauta, have done so.
They also argue the schedule allows counsel two months to review such evidence before additional motions would be required.
But the brief’s strongest language attacks two other arguments made by Trump’s attorneys, including that he will need time to dedicate to his campaign.
“The demands of defendants’ professional schedules do not provide a basis to delay trial in this case. Many indicted defendants have demanding jobs that require a considerable amount of their time and energy, or a significant amount of travel,” they write.
“The Speedy Trial Act contemplates no such factor as a basis for a continuance, and the court should not indulge it here.”
Prosecutors also attacked an argument from Trump’s team that they may seek to build a case using the Presidential Records Act.
Trump’s team last year sought to withhold records from investigators using the law, arguing that it gave the former president the power to determine what were presidential versus personal records. That argument was largely rejected by an appeals court.
The DOJ called the plan to raise the argument again borderline “frivolous.”
“As for the impact of the Presidential Records Act on this prosecution, any argument that it mandates dismissal of the indictment or forms a defense to the charges here borders on frivolous,” they wrote, noting that the act “is not a criminal statute, and in no way purports to address the retention of national security information.”
“The defendants are, of course, free to make whatever arguments they like for dismissal of the indictment, and the government will respond promptly. But they should not be permitted to gesture at a baseless legal argument, call it ‘novel,’ and then claim that the court will require an indefinite continuance in order to resolve it.”
Trump was charged on 31 counts last month, on charges including violation of the Espionage Act as well as obstruction of justice for his efforts to retain more than 300 documents with classified markings.
Judge Aileen Cannon initially set an August trial date for Trump, a placeholder date that complies with laws giving defendants a right to trial within 70 days of arraignment.
The DOJ additionally writes that the complexities of Trump’s case, including thoroughly vetting jurors, argue in favor of getting the trial underway quickly.
“To be sure, the government readily acknowledges that jury selection here may merit additional protocols (such as a questionnaire) and may be more time-consuming than in other cases,” prosecutors write.
“But those are reasons to start the process sooner rather than later.”
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