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Judge In Trump’s Classified Docs Case ‘Unlikely’ To Hold Trial Before Election: Expert

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


A former federal prosecutor and legal analyst said last week that it looked increasingly “unlikely” that U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon would allow former President Donald Trump to be tried in his classified documents case before the November election.

Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, is currently facing four criminal indictments. Two of these indictments were initiated at the federal level by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and special counsel Jack Smith.

One federal case revolves around Trump’s purported mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida following his departure from the White House.

Prosecutors allege that he unlawfully retained documents containing sensitive national security information, stored them inadequately, and declined to cooperate when requested to return them.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges, claiming that he had a right to retain the materials and possessed broad authority to declassify documents during his presidency. He has also accused all of the investigations against him of being politically motivated efforts to harm his presidential campaign.

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Former federal prosecutor and legal analyst Renato Mariotti told CNN on Sunday that Cannon is likely to continue ruling in Trump’s favor after his legal team has requested a trial start date sometime after the election, in 2025, citing his campaign schedule, Newsweek reported.

“There are so many criminal trials that are upcoming, and as far as Mar-a-Lago goes, Judge Aileen Cannon has really shown a willingness to push this trial and to give as much latitude to Trump’s team as possible,” he said. “It is just really hard for me to see her putting his feet to the fire, particularly given the fact that the classified documents at issue add an element of complexity and give her opportunities to delay further. I just think that realistically, it is unlikely that she is going to force them to go to trial before the election.”

By comparison, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, D.C., an Obama appointee who is presiding over charges brought by Smith against Trump related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, has routinely issued rulings favorable to the special counsel.

She has delayed that trial, however, while waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide on Trump’s claim of presidential immunity.

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In an interview Sunday with Newsweek, Dave Aronberg, the state attorney in Florida’s Palm Beach County, agreed with Mariotti.

“I agree with Renato. This trial was never going to happen before the election,” Aronberg said. “Judge Cannon is new to the bench and has never had a classified document case like this before, which has built-in delays because of federal law. In addition, Judge Cannon has been very accommodating to Trump’s requests for more time. I’ve always felt that this is the strongest case against Trump but the least likely to be tried before the election.”

Meanwhile, special counsel Robert Hur, who was appointed to investigate President Joe Biden’s possession of classified documents from when he was a senator and vice president — neither of which is covered under national security laws like a president — found that he violated the law but chose not to prosecute him because of his substantial memory loss and the belief that his defense team would use them successfully in any trial.

“Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen,” Hur’s report said, but added that the evidence “does not establish Mr. Biden’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“We have also considered that, at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” it added. “Based on our direct interactions with and observations of him, he is someone for whom many jurors will want to identify reasonable doubt. It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him — by then a former president well into his eighties — of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.”

Hur did not seem to address whether it was assessed that Biden knew what he was doing when he unlawfully retained the documents and provided information in them to a biographer.

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