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Trial in Trump Documents Case Set for May 2024

Judge Aileen M. Cannon rejected former President Donald J. Trump’s request to delay the trial until after the election but pushed the start date past the Justice Department’s request to begin in December.

Official portrait of President Donald J. Trump, Friday, October 6, 2017.

 

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The federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of illegally retaining dozens of classified documents set a trial date on Friday for May 2024, taking a middle position between the government’s request to go to trial in December and Mr. Trump’s desire to push the proceeding until after the 2024 election.

In her order, Judge Aileen M. Cannon said the trial was to be held in her home courthouse in Fort Pierce, Fla., a coastal city two-and-a-half hours north of Miami that will draw its jury pool from several counties that Mr. Trump won handily in his two previous presidential campaigns.

Judge Cannon also laid out a calendar of hearings, throughout the remainder of this year and into next year, including those concerning the handling of the classified material at the heart of the case.

The scheduling order came after a contentious hearing on Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Fort Pierce where prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, and lawyers for Mr. Trump sparred over when to hold the trial.

The timing of the proceeding is more important in this case than in most criminal matters because Mr. Trump is now the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination and his legal obligations to be in court will intersect with his campaign schedule.

The date Judge Cannon chose to start the trial — May 20, 2024 — falls after the bulk of the primary contests. But it is less than two months before the start of the Republican National Convention in July and the formal start of the general election season.

Mr. Trump’s advisers have been blunt that winning the presidency is how he hopes to beat the legal charges he is facing, and he has adopted a strategy of the delaying the trial, which is expected to take several weeks, for as long as possible.

The Justice Department declined to comment on Judge Cannon’s decision. But it did not come as a surprise to prosecutors, who set their initial, aggressive timetable expecting that she would select a date, probably sometime in the first half of 2024, and reject the Trump legal team’s request to push it past the election, according to a person familiar with the situation.

It is not clear whether the May 2024 date will hold. As part of her order, Judge Cannon designated Mr. Trump’s case as “complex,” a move that could allow for additional delays.

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