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Trump's D.C. trial should not take place until April 2026, his lawyers argue

Washington — Former President Donald Trump's legal team is asking for his Washington, D.C., trial to wait until after the 2024 presidential election, court documents filed late Wednesday reveal. 

His legal team argued the trial should wait until April 2026, citing what they say is the large amount of evidence, complex legal questions at play, and competing legal proceedings currently in the former president's schedule, the court documents show. 

"This is an unprecedented case in American history. The incumbent administration has targeted its primary political opponent—and leading candidate in the upcoming presidential election — with criminal prosecution," Trump's attorneys wrote. "The administration has devoted tens of millions of dollars to this effort, creating a special counsel's office with dozens of employees, many of whom are apparently assigned full-time to this case and this case alone."

Trump was charged earlier this month with four counts related to an alleged scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Special counsel Jack Smith's indictment accuses the former president of working with six unnamed co-conspirators to pressure state officials to alter election results and appoint slates of fake alternate electors who would refuse to certify President Joe Biden's victory. 

The former president pleaded not guilty to the four counts on Aug. 3.

Last week, Smith's team proposed a trial date of Jan. 2, 2024 and estimated the proceedings could last four to six weeks. 

"The government's objective is clear: to deny President Trump and his counsel a fair ability to prepare for trial," Trump's lawyers wrote Wednesday, arguing Smith's team had years to examine and build the case and the former president should be afforded more time "equal to the government's time spent investigating," according to the filing. 

Smith was appointed in November 2022 to oversee the already ongoing investigation after Trump announced his candidacy for president.

Trump's proposed trial schedule moving forward includes months of pretrial hearings and deadlines that span from December 2023 through spring 2026, when they suggest jury selection should begin.

The former president's attorneys argue in part that the "enormity" of the evidence provided by the government — which they say includes 11.5 million pages of documents and could grow as the investigation is ongoing — and "conflicts" in Trump's legal schedule pose challenges to the government's proposal.  

Further, the attorneys argue the complexity of the case warrants the lengthy pretrial period, which they say is the "median" duration of cases in which defrauding the United States is charged. 

"No major party presidential candidate has ever been charged while in the middle of a campaign — and certainly not by a Justice Department serving his opponent. These and numerous other issues will be questions of first impression, requiring significant time for the parties to consider and brief, and for the Court to resolve," the filing says. 

On Monday, Smith's team pushed back on the Trump team's proposed delay, arguing the special counsel's earlier trial date serves the public interest.

"In service of a proposed trial date in 2026 that would deny the public its right to a speedy trial, the defendant cites inapposite statistics and cases, overstates the amount of new and non-duplicative discovery, and exaggerates the challenge of reviewing it effectively," prosecutors wrote in a court filing, urging Chutkan to adopt a schedule well in advance of the Trump request.

The special counsel said 65% of the evidence it provided to Trump's attorneys includes documents the former president's team already had access to, like public records, Tweets, and transcripts from the now-defunct House Selection Committee to investigate Jan. 6. About a quarter of the initial batch of evidence given to Trump's team, prosecutors say, comes "from entities associated with the defendant" himself.

"Through reasoned, discretionary scheduling orders like these, the Court can fairly administer the prompt disposition of this case," Smith's team wrote.

The Trump team's move comes about a month after the former president's lawyers sought to delay another federal trial beyond the upcoming presidential election. In that case — in the Southern District of Florida — the special counsel accused Trump of illegally retaining national defense information and obstructing investigators in their efforts to examine his alleged conduct. Two of his aides are also charged in the alleged obstruction scheme and all three have pleaded not guilty. 

Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, ultimately chose a date somewhere in the middle of the competing requests and ordered a trial to take place in May 2024.  

Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan will make the call in the D.C. matter. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 28. 

Urging Chutkan to begin the 2020 election-related trial in January, prosecutors wrote, "It is difficult to imagine a public interest stronger than the one in this case, in which the defendant — the former President of the United States — is charged with three criminal conspiracies intended to undermine the federal government, obstruct the certification of the 2020 presidential election, and disenfranchise voters." 

The Trump team's request follows soon after the former president was indicted on state charges in another election-related matter in Georgia. He and 18 co-defendants were charged in a RICO-style indictment alleging they tried to overturn the results of the last presidential election in that state. 

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis gave all defendants until Aug. 25 to turn themselves in and proposed March 4 as a potential trial date, although the size and complexity of the case may delay it. 

Trump has denied all wrongdoing in the case and an arraignment will be set for the coming weeks. 

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