Trump's Mar-a-Lago document trial has been delayed again. He now has a chance to dodge it entirely.

  • Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago documents trial has been delayed indefinitely.

  • It's now extremely unlike that it would take place before the 2024 election.

  • The scheduling may allow Trump to get rid of the case if he's elected president.

The judge overseeing Donald Trump's criminal case over his holding onto secret government documents following his presidency delayed the trial indefinitely — giving him the chance to get rid of the charges if he wins the 2024 election.

In an order Tuesday afternoon, US District Judge Aileen Cannon scheduled more than a dozen more hearings and deadlines for lawyers through July. The trial, she said, couldn't happen until she decided "myriad and interconnected pre-trial and CIPA issues remaining," referring to laws related to handling classified information.

Cannon — who Trump nominated for the judgeship while he was in the White House — had previously scheduled jury selection to commence on May 20, but it had long been clear the trial would not be ready to take place by then.

For months, lawyers for Trump and his two co-defendants — Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos de Oliveira and aide Waltine Nauta — had been sparring with federal prosecutors over how to share discovery information, which includes classified documents.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, in an indictment last June, accused Trump of violating a slew of criminal national security and obstruction laws by spiriting away sensitive government documents from the White House to Mar-a-Lago and other personal properties, holding on to them after his presidency, and lying about it to authorities.

The co-defendants, de Oliveira and Nauta, each helped Trump hide the documents and mislead investigators, prosecutors alleged. (A PAC controlled by Trump is paying lawyers representing de Oliveira and Nauta with political donor funds.)

Trump's busy trial schedule is playing out in the thick of the 2024 election

It's one of four ongoing criminal cases against Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2024 election and the only former president to be charged with any crime.

Trump is currently about halfway through his first criminal trial, in Manhattan, where prosecutors accused Trump of illegally falsifying business records when he covered up hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with him, ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Unlike in civil cases — Trump recently went through two — criminal cases generally require that the defendant be present during the entire trial, making scheduling a complicated task.

Trump may also have the power, if he were to be reelected president, to dispose of the cases brought by the Justice Department.

Another criminal case overseen by Smith, in a federal court in Washington, DC, was previously scheduled for March 4. In that case, Smith alleged Trump broke criminal laws through his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. But it has been paused as the US Supreme Court weighs whether Trump would be immune from prosecution in the case, and may not be decided in time to complete the trial process before the 2024 election.

Trump's attorneys have also made immunity arguments in the classified documents case.

Jack Smith.
Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith.MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis also brought election interference charges against Trump, for trying to overturn the results in Georgia. That case is not expected to go to trial until 2025 at the earliest.

At a hearing in February for the New York case, Juan Merchan, the presiding judge, grew impatient with Trump's attorney, Todd Blanche, as he tried to lodge the trial from its original March 25 start date. Blanche is also the lead attorney representing Trump in the government documents case.

"Stop interrupting me, please," Merchan said, when Blanche said the Florida case might move forward in May. "You don't have a trial date, not a real one."

Blanche had suggested that everyone reconvene in March and then decide on a new schedule going forward. Merchan held firm, pointing out that the DC case had been indefinitely delayed, and that he expected the Manhattan trial to last six weeks — meaning it would end even if Cannon had held onto her May start date.

"I'm sure that the trial cannot start on May 20th if this trial is ongoing May 20th and Mr. Trump is present in this courtroom on May 20th, which I don't expect," Merchan said. "I expect this trial to last about six weeks. Even so, we can't have two simultaneous criminal trials."

Merchan later pushed back the trial to April, based on a last-minute snafu related to the production of new records from a separate criminal investigation from federal prosecutors in New York.

On Tuesday, Stormy Daniels took the stand, testifying about sex she says she had with Trump in 2006 — and threats she said she experienced later.

Trump filed several motions to dismiss the Florida case in February, claiming he's immune from criminal charges and that it was OK for him to hold on to the records.

Cannon has thus far declined to dismiss the case on some of Trump's arguments, but is weighing others.

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