Trump seeking to delay federal trials ‘at any cost’, says special counsel

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors argued Thursday that Donald Trump is trying to deceive a Florida court weighing whether to extend key deadlines in the criminal case there, saying in a filing that he is attempting to delay that trial and another one in Washington “at any cost.” 

The latest filing from special counsel Jack Smith illustrates how the former president’s multiple criminal cases are tied together — and further entangled with an election calendar that kicks off in January with the start of the 2024 primary contests. Trump is the front-runner in the polls for the Republican nomination.

Smith’s office on Thursday alerted U.S. Judge Aileen Cannon in Florida that Trump had asked the judge overseeing the federal election interference case in Washington for a pause until his motion for presidential immunity is “fully resolved.”

That request for a pause came hours after Trump’s lawyers had told Cannon that the Florida case over his handling of classified documents needed to be delayed because of conflicting scheduling demands.

His attorneys had appeared before Cannon earlier in the day to make their argument, with one lawyer for Trump joining the hearing remotely from New York, where he is defending the former president in an ongoing civil fraud trial.

Cannon, whom Trump appointed to the bench in 2020, had paused pre-trial litigation related to the use of some classified materials as she considered the request from the former president. The defense has also asked to halt the trial until after the 2024 presidential election. 

But the special counsel said that Trump’s attorneys failed to disclose at the hearing before Cannon “that they were planning to file — and yesterday evening did file” a motion to halt the Washington case as well.

Overnight, Trump’s lawyers called for a delay in “all proceedings” in the Washington case until the questions of presidential immunity “are fully resolved,” his attorney John Lauro said in a filing. Trump’s lawyers have filed motions seeking to have the case tossed out, arguing his actions surrounding the 2020 election are protected by immunity.

The Washington trial is scheduled for early March, but if the request to delay is granted, it could be delayed for months, if not past the November election.

Federal prosecutors, in their notice to Cannon, raised the alarm over Trump’s alleged tactics.

His lawyers’ effort shows Trump’s “overriding interest in delaying both trials at any cost,” counselor to the special counsel Jay Bratt wrote. 

“This Court should [not] allow itself to be manipulated in this fashion,” Bratt added.

Trump was charged in Florida with mishandling classified defense secrets after he left office, and in Washington in connection with efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The former president has pleaded not guilty to both indictments.

Katherine Doyle

Katherine Doyle is a White House reporter for NBC News.

Daniel Barnes

Daniel Barnes reports for NBC News, based in Washington.

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