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Lawyers argue about rescheduling Trump's classified documents trial in Florida

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Former President Trump's trial in Florida on charges of withholding classified documents could start as soon as this summer. A federal district court heard arguments today about when the trial will begin. Prosecutors want it to start in July. Meanwhile, Trump's lawyers are asking to postpone it until next year, after the presidential election. NPR's Greg Allen was in the courtroom today and joins us now from Fort Pierce, Fla. Hey, Greg.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So I thought the Florida trial was supposed to start in May. Why is it being pushed back?

ALLEN: Well, this case has moved much more slowly than many people thought. Even U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon seems to not expected to go this slowly, but much of that has to do with Trump's defense. The former president's lawyers have sought access to a lot of classified material, leading to a lot of motions filed under (c) and a closed two-day hearing. In addition, Trump's lawyers have filed at least a dozen motions asking Judge Cannon to dismiss the case. He and his two codefendants face some 40 criminal counts.

Trump's lawyers today argued the government case against him is politically motivated. They want Judge Cannon to hold a hearing and to force the government to produce evidence of what they say is a selective and vindictive prosecution. Prosecutors say there isn't any evidence like that, and they say it would be unprecedented for Judge Cannon to grant them a hearing.

CHANG: Well, if the trial begins in the summer, as prosecutors want, could it all be finished before the election, you think?

ALLEN: Well, possibly. Defense lawyer Todd Blanche said today he thinks a trial would take four to five weeks, not including jury selection. Trump has asked Judge Cannon for an August trial date, but his lawyers also said they think the trial should really be put off until next year, well after the presidential election.

CHANG: Is the timing of this trial at all affected by the three other criminal trials that Trump is facing? What do you sense?

ALLEN: Well, there's a lot of discussion in court today about that and especially about the criminal trial Trump's facing for allegedly being involved in making hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. That trial is slated to start later this month in New York. Trump and one of his lawyers in this case will have to be at that trial for those six weeks. They told Judge Cannon it's going to take them at least six weeks for that trial. And Judge Cannon hasn't ruled yet on how that will affect this trial or when this trial will start, but clearly, she's going to have to take that New York trial into account in doing this.

CHANG: Yeah. Well, I know that another issue that's come up in the Mar-a-Lago case is whether potential witnesses will be identified. Did the judge at all talk about that?

ALLEN: Well, yes. Judge Cannon surprised many legal experts last month when she said that witness names could be made public in some of the filings here. Prosecutors objected, saying that the court had, quote, "made a clear error by doing that." Judge Cannon today seemed a little stung by that criticism. She said in court that the court, quote, "the court takes matters of openness quite seriously." Prosecutors said revealing the names of potential witnesses, though, could expose them to threats and harassment. And that's already happened in this case. Last year, after FBI agents executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, prosecutors say some of the agents were threatened and harassed.

CHANG: Well, also, I understand that both special counsel Jack Smith and Donald Trump were in the courtroom today. Was there any interaction between them?

ALLEN: No, not that I saw. Jack Smith sat behind his prosecutors, quietly observing the proceedings. Trump was subdued. He sat at the defense table and chatted with his attorneys as the long hearing went on. He left the courthouse without making any comments, though. It was really a much different Donald Trump than we saw in his recent New York trials.

CHANG: So interesting. That is NPR's Greg Allen in Fort Pierce, Fla. Thank you so much, Greg.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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.
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