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Trump classified documents trial in Florida to begin in May 2024

Former President Donald Trump speaks at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on June 13 after pleading not guilty in a Miami courtroom earlier in the day to mishandling classified documents.
Andrew Harnik
Former President Donald Trump speaks at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on June 13 after pleading not guilty in a Miami courtroom earlier in the day to mishandling classified documents.

Updated July 21, 2023 at 2:33 PM ET

A federal judge says former President Donald Trump's criminal trial on charges of withholding and concealing classified and top-secret documents will begin in Florida on May 20, 2024.

That schedule puts the trial at the tail end of the Republican presidential primary process. Trump is currently the front-runner for the GOP nomination and already may have become the nominee by that time.

In her order Friday, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon says the evidence in the case is "extremely voluminous and will require substantial time to review" and includes classified and top secret documents that require special handling procedures. She also says the case meets the legal definition of a "complex" case, requiring a more extended trial schedule.

A spokesperson for Trump's campaign responded to Cannon's order, calling it "a major setback to the DOJ's crusade to deny President Trump a fair legal process. The extensive schedule allows President Trump and his legal team to continue fighting this empty hoax."

Trump faces 37 counts, including more than 30 violations of the Espionage Act, over allegations of withholding documents related to national security. He's also charged, along with aide Walt Nauta, with making false statements and conspiring to obstruct justice.

The federal indictment alleges that Nauta moved dozens of boxes containing classified documents at Trump's direction at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's private club and residence in Palm Beach, Fla., and then lied to federal investigators about it.

Nauta's case also goes to trial on May 20. Both Trump and Nauta have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The former president's lawyers had been asking for the trial to be delayed until late next year. They said Trump's busy schedule — he's running for president again and juggling several lawsuits and two criminal indictments — necessitated waiting until after the 2024 presidential election.

In court, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche told the judge his client deserved special consideration. "It is intellectually dishonest to stand up in front of this court and say this case is like any other," Blanche said. "It is not."

Trump's defense team also said the sheer volume of material that will be entered as evidence, which includes more than a million pages of documents, and the legal complexity of the case were reasons for an extended trial schedule.

Prosecutors working with special counsel Jack Smith had wanted an early trial date, in December. In his argument before Judge Cannon, prosecutor David Harbach said there was no reason Trump should receive special treatment.

"Mr. Trump is not the president, he's a private citizen indicted by a grand jury," Harbach said. He also rejected an assertion by Trump's lawyers that publicity and press coverage surrounding the trial is another reason for it to be delayed.

Publicity surrounding Trump, Harbach said, is "chronic and almost permanent."

Read the indictment of Donald Trump and Walt Nauta:

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.