A federal judge on Friday set May 2024 as the date for Donald Trump’s historic trial for his handling of state secrets, while the presidential campaign is in full swing.

The trial, the first to target a former US president, who is also a new candidate for the White House, will open in federal court in Fort Pierce, some 210 kilometers north of Miami, Florida (southeast), on May 20, 2024, Judge Aileen Cannon said.

It thus intends to give the parties time to examine a file of nearly 1.1 million pages, not to mention the challenge that lies ahead with regard to the examination of these documents for certain ultra-confidential ones.

“No one disputes that the defense will need sufficient time to review and assess the case,” the judge, appointed by President Trump, wrote in her judgment.

Prosecutors had called for the trial to begin in December, while defense lawyers argued for it to be held after the November 2024 presidential election.

Donald Trump’s campaign team saw it as a setback for the Justice Department, and spoke of an “extended timeline that will allow the president and his lawyers to continue to fight a meaningless hoax,” according to a statement.

“It is not certain that the date of the trial can hold”, underlines however the lawyer Carl Tobias, of the university of Richmond, by foreseeing a long procedural battle before the opening of the trial.

But if it takes place as planned in May 2024, it will then be held in the middle of the Republican primary campaign to designate the candidate who will face, barring an accident, Democrat Joe Biden.

Donald Trump, 77, is the big favorite in these primaries, according to the polls.

The Republican Party convention that will consecrate the winner for the nomination is scheduled for mid-July in Milwaukee (Wisconsin, north) but the bulk of the primaries will have taken place before May 20.

The trial will not prevent the billionaire from campaigning, but it is customary for an accused to be physically present at the hearings. And the trial is expected to last weeks if not months.

Charged in mid-June with 37 counts including “unlawful withholding of national security information”, “obstructing justice” and “false testimony”, Donald Trump pleaded not guilty in federal court in Miami.

The former Republican president speaks of “persecution” and assures that he had the right to keep documents.

He is accused of putting the security of the United States at risk by keeping confidential documents after his departure from the White House in January 2021, including military plans or information on nuclear weapons, in his luxury residence in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, instead of handing them over to the National Archives.

However, the law obliges any American president to transmit all of his emails, letters and other working documents to the National Archives. Another law, on espionage, prohibits keeping state secrets in unauthorized and unsecured places.

The case had led the federal police, the FBI, to carry out a spectacular search of his Mar-a-Lago residence in August 2022.

According to the indictment, boxes remained stacked here and there, in particular on the stage of a “ballroom”, in a bedroom or an office, before being transported to a “storeroom” accessible from the swimming pool, where certain documents marked with the mention “secret defense” were seen spread out on the ground.

A former personal assistant to Donald Trump, Walt Nauta, charged with complicity in this case and who also pleaded not guilty, will be tried at the same time as his former boss.

Since his departure from the White House, Donald Trump has experienced a series of legal disputes which could weigh heavily during the presidential election.

He is personally targeted in the federal investigation into the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, and could be charged with “conspiracy” against the state, among other things.

The billionaire is also already indicted in the case concerning a payment in 2016 to porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged affair.

He also received a civil conviction for a sexual assault.

And a prosecutor in Georgia (south) must announce by September the result of her investigation into the pressure he exerted to try to change the result of the 2020 presidential election, won by Joe Biden.

Despite everything, the ex-president, already acquitted by his majority in the Senate twice in impeachment proceedings when he was in the White House, swears that he will not throw in the towel.

07/21/2023 23:20:41 –         Miami (AFP) –         © 2023 AFP