Trump's confidential materials case may drag on past election. (Part-1)

Washington — When FBI agents searched Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in August 2022, they found evidence that he hoarded enough classified documents to fill dozens of boxes and obstructed their retrieval. However, nine months after his indictment, there are growing doubts that the case will be tried this year.

The Trump-appointed judge has held two hours-long sessions with lawyers this month but has not set a trial date. Multiple attempts to dismiss the case, months-long debates over classified evidence, and a highly contested defense effort to divulge government witness names remain unresolved. A subsequent order suggests that Judge Aileen Cannon is still considering a Trump camp assertion concerning his legitimate possession of the materials she had originally questioned days earlier.

According to former Justice Department national security prosecutor David Aaron, this is progressing more slowly and less sequentially than other classified information trials.

The delays are part of a Trump campaign attempt to delay the four criminal prosecutions against the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. The Florida case is remarkable because there have been very few meaningful decisions to advance toward trial. The matter may not be resolved before this year's presidential election. If elected president, Trump could pick an attorney general to drop federal charges against him in Florida and other states.

Special counsel Jack Smith's prosecutors have battled hard to advance the case. They've avoided mentioning the election, but they've repeatedly cited a public interest in getting the case resolved quickly and cited overwhelming evidence — including surveillance video, a defense lawyer's notes, and close associate testimony — proving Trump's guilt.

This case should be over,” said Cooley Law School professor and former Florida judge Jeffrey Swartz. There was nothing difficult about this case.” The secret documents case differs from Trump's more sophisticated criminal cases, which include hush money payments to a porn actress, racketeering, and his attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

Defense counsel disagree, and Cannon, a former federal prosecutor appointed to the court in 2020 with limited trial experience, has been receptive to some of their arguments since before the case was filed last June.

Weeks after the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, the judge appointed an independent arbiter to sort through the documents in response to a Trump lawsuit to reclaim them from the federal government. Cannon overstepped her authority, and a unanimous federal appeals panel invalidated her appointment.

My sense of it is, when she did get reversed by the 11th Circuit that made her gun-shy, so she’s gone at a very slow pace” and issued “very few public, written decisions about important issues,” said former Western District of Virginia U.S. attorney John Fishwick, Jr.

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