MIAMI, March 2 — A federal judge in Florida held a hearing yesterday to set a date for Donald Trump’s trial on charges of mishandling classified documents and said a July 8 start proposed by prosecutors was unlikely.

Trump, 77, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, attended the hearing during which his attorneys argued that the trial should not be held until after the November election.

Lawyers for the former president said that if District Judge Aileen Cannon does insist on setting a date, the trial should begin on August 12.

Special counsel Jack Smith, who brought the charges against the former president, had proposed the July 8 start date but Cannon, during yesterday’s hearing, said that was “unrealistic” given all of the pretrial motions in the case.

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The hearing, held in Fort Pierce, about 125 miles (200 kilometres) north of Miami, concluded without Cannon setting a date for the start of the trial.

Trump pleaded not guilty in June to charges of unlawfully retaining national defence information, conspiracy to obstruct justice and making false statements.

He kept the classified files — which included records from the Pentagon, CIA and National Security Agency — unsecured at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida and thwarted official efforts to retrieve them, according to the indictment.

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Lawyers for the former president have sought repeatedly to delay his various court cases until after the November election, when Trump could potentially have the federal charges against him dropped if he wins.

Trump also faces federal charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election won by Democrat Joe Biden.

That trial had been scheduled to begin in Washington next week, but has been put on hold while the Supreme Court hears Trump’s claim that as a former president he is immune from prosecution.

Trump has lodged a similar presidential immunity claim with Cannon, the Florida judge, and she could potentially freeze the documents case pending a decision from the nation’s highest court on the immunity bid.

The Supreme Court has scheduled arguments in the high-stakes immunity case for the week of April 22, and is expected to issue a ruling before the end of June.

A three-judge appeals court panel ruled earlier this month that a former president has no immunity from prosecution for actions taken while in the White House.

Georgia decision ‘within two weeks’

Trump also faces 2020 election interference charges in Georgia and is scheduled to go on trial in New York on March 25 on state charges of falsifying business records by paying pre-election hush money to a porn star.

A judge in Georgia heard final arguments yesterday in a bid by lawyers for Trump and other defendants to disqualify the prosecutor in their election interference case.

The allegations of misconduct against District Attorney Fani Willis have threatened to delay the Georgia case or torpedo it entirely.

Trump and his co-defendants have asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee to disqualify Willis following revelations she had a romantic relationship with the man she hired to work as the special prosecutor on the case, Nathan Wade.

Willis and Wade both denied under oath that their relationship began before she hired him to work on the high-profile case in November 2021.

McAfee, at the conclusion of Friday’s hearing, said he would deliver his decision on whether to disqualify Willis within two weeks. — AFP