Special counsel Jack Smith told a federal judge Thursday that there was no reason to postpone scheduling a trial date in the classified documents case against Donald Trump, in a court filing that aggressively rejected the reasons the former president and his co-defendant gave for why the trial should be delayed.
The Smith team, which is seeking a mid-December trial date, accused the defendants of giving a “misleading” picture of the amount of evidence that has been handed over by prosecutors to the defendants in the case. Trump and his co-defendant Walt Nauta cited the need for more time to go through the evidence as a reason for pushing back setting a trial date.
The prosecutors also railed against the suggestion by Trump’s and Nauta’s lawyers that it would not be possible to seat a fair jury before the 2024 election, as Trump is running to return to the White House.
“Our jury system relies on the Court’s authority to craft a thorough and effective jury selection process, and on prospective jurors’ ability and willingness to decide cases based on the evidence presented to them, guided by legal instructions from the Court,” the special counsel’s filing said.
“To be sure, the Government readily acknowledges that jury selection here may merit additional protocols (such as a questionnaire) and may be more time-consuming than in other cases, but those are reasons to start the process sooner rather than later.”
Trump faces charges related to his alleged willful retention of national defense information. He and Nauta also face charges stemming from alleged attempts to hide the materials and to obstruct the investigation into the documents. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty,
The fiery new filing comes ahead of a Tuesday hearing in the case – the first before US District Judge Aileen Cannon, who will preside over the trial – where the lawyers from each side will discuss how the classified materials in the case should be handled.
The involvement of the sensitive government documents is one of several complexities to the historic federal prosecution of a former president. But with the latest filing, the special counsel stood by his proposal that mid-December is a plausible date to aim to start the trial.
Prosecutors said that only two of the lawyers who have appeared on behalf of the defendants in the case have submitted the forms required for obtaining security clearance thus far, which the attorneys will need given the classified materials involved in the case.
“There is no basis in law or fact for proceeding in such an indeterminate and open-ended fashion, and the Defendants provide none,” the new Smith filing said.
Smith’s team also stressed that, while 800,000 pages of discovery were handed over to the defense, one-third of those pages were “non-content email header and footer information” and the prosecutors said only 4,500 pages made up the subset of “key” documents in the case.
Also “misleading,” the prosecutors said, were claims from Trump and Nauta that nine months of CCTV footage was turned over in discovery for the defense teams to sift through.
“The Government obtained footage only from selected cameras (many of which do not continuously record) from selected dates throughout the period for which it obtained footage,” the filing said.
Thursday’s filing by the special counsel sheds new light on how prosecutors plan to protect the sensitive government information embedded in the case, while still meeting the government’s discovery obligations.
Smith said that “a large majority” of the classified records investigators obtained from Trump’s Florida resort will be accessible to the defense counsel once they obtain interim security clearances. The prosecutors were prepared to hand over that tranche July 10, had the lawyers obtained their interim clearances by then, according to the new filing.
“However, in order to receive an interim clearance, counsel first needed to submit their Form SF-86 and supporting documentation to the Litigation Security Group,” the filing said. “As of this filing, only two counsel of record have completed this task. The Court has set a deadline of today for them to do so.”
In a Thursday evening filing, Trump’s lawyers told Cannon that they will have taken the steps necessary to apply for security clearances for the case by Monday.
Trump attorney Todd Blanche has completed all of the outstanding tasks for obtaining his clearance but the other Trump attorney on the case, Chris Kise, still has to submit his fingerprints, which will happen Monday, the filing said.
Prosecutors plan to transport next week that tranche of materials to a secure facility at the federal courthouse in Miami, from where the defense counsel can view the documents once they obtain interim clearances, according to the new filing. Once the attorneys have obtained their final clearances, the remaining classified documents will be brought to that facility for them to view as well. Additionally, prosecutors will turn over some unclassified materials next week that have not yet been produced, the filing said.
“In sum, neither the amount of classified discovery in this case nor the timetable for its production is a reason for an indefinite continuance of the trial date,” Smith’s filing said.
This story has been updated with additional information.