Trump’s legal team asks to delay deadlines in special counsel’s election interference case

Trump’s legal team asks to delay deadlines in special counsel’s election interference case

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Washington — Former President Donald Trump’s legal team asked a federal judge Thursday to postpone filing deadlines by 60 days in the special counsel’s 2020 election-related case against him, citing the “numerous novel and complex legal issues” the prosecution presents. 

Attorneys for Trump filed a motion to Washington, D.C. federal Judge Tanya Chutkan exactly a month after she set an October 9 deadline for any pretrial motions the parties might want to file. In federal trials, prosecutors and defense attorneys submit written arguments to the court about legal issues ranging from concerns about the investigation to attempts to dismiss the case. The court then sets time limits for responses to those filings, usually allowing ample time for a response and other litigation. As a result, any changes to the schedule generally result in trial delays. 

In this case, Trump’s attorneys have urged Chutkan to move the Oct. 9 deadline by two months — to Dec. 9, 2023 — which would move the initial due date for raising primary legal issues to under three months before the trial is currently set to begin, on March 4, 2024. 

Special counsel Jack Smith charged Trump in August with four counts tied to his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, including conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct Congress’ work on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump pleaded not guilty, has denied wrongdoing and has characterized the prosecution as politically motivated. 

“This case is the first of its kind and concerns many legal questions of first impression,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in their filing Thursday. They said they needed the extension to “finalize several” motions, including “motions to dismiss relating to executive immunity, failure to state a claim, and improper conduct by the Special Counsel during the grand jury process and in charging decisions.” 

“Each of these motions will be extensive,” the legal team wrote, arguing the complex legal theories require more time to brief.

During previous hearings before Chutkan, Trump attorney John Lauro had indicated he would file a “unique and extensive motion” dealing with executive immunity and said he planned to raise First Amendment issues. Lauro also said in media interviews that Trump’s team might try to move the prosecution outside of D.C. 

While Chutkan has yet to rule on Trump’s current motion for delay, she indicated during an Aug. 28 hearing that while she views the prosecution of the former president as historic,  she does not see too many novel legal questions that needed to be addressed. 

The special counsel’s office opposes the requested delay, according to Trump’s filing. A spokesman for Smith declined to comment. 

The former president’s defense attorneys also told Chutkan in their Thursday filing that they had begun to review 13 million pages of evidence provided to them by the Justice Department “while operating under an unprecedented trial setting mere months from the time of indictment” and needed more time to review their relevance. 

Trump’s request for more time came just a day after Chutkan rejected his motion asking the judge to recuse herself from the case altogether. The judge wrote Wednesday that her comments condemning the Jan. 6 attack during sentencing hearings for defendants connected to the Capitol breach, which Trump raised as disqualifying, “do not manifest a deep-seated prejudice that would make fair judgment impossible — the standard for recusal based on statements with intrajudicial origins.” 

On Thursday, Smith’s team pushed back on another Trump request to delay proceedings, this time in the special counsel’s case in Florida in which the former president and two aides are charged with unlawful retention of sensitive government records and obstruction. 

The former president last week asked federal Judge Aileen Cannon in the Southern District of Florida to amend a pretrial schedule connected to the review of classified information in the case, arguing there are “significant unresolved disputes” related to the evidence that require more time to litigate. 

Prosecutors accused the defense of trying to “intentionally derail both pre-trial proceedings and this Court’s trial date” and revealed that five national defense documents that Trump is accused of illegally retaining are not authorized to be stored in the secure facility currently established for the review of sensitive documents in the case. The agencies that own the records, the Justice Department wrote, asked that they be removed until a more suitable location for their review is established. 

Trump and his co-defendants pleaded not guilty in that case earlier this year. 

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