Trump request for 2026 trial in elections case criticised by Justice Department

Special counsel Jack Smith says scheduling request is 'neither helpful nor insightful'

Federal prosecutors said in a court filing that Donald Trump's request for an April 2026 start date denies public the right to a speedy trial. AP
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Federal prosecutors objected on Monday to the April 2026 trial date proposed by lawyers for Donald Trump in the case accusing the former president of scheming to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Members of special counsel Jack Smith's team said in a court filing that Mr Trump's lawyers last week had exaggerated the amount of material they would need to sift through to be ready for trial.

In suggesting an April 2026 trial date, defence lawyers said they had been provided by prosecutors with 11.5 million pages of potential evidence to review.

But prosecutors said much of that included duplicate pages or information that is already public, such as documents from the House committee that investigated the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol and copies of Mr Trump's social media posts.

“In cases such as this one, the burden of reviewing discovery cannot be measured by page count alone, and comparisons to the height of the Washington Monument and the length of a Tolstoy novel are neither helpful nor insightful," prosecutors wrote.

"In fact, comparisons such as those are a distraction from the issue at hand – which is determining what is required to prepare for trial."

Mr Smith said there was no justifiable reason that the case could not start in January.

“In service of a proposed trial date in 2026 that would deny the public its right to a speedy trial, the defendant cites inapposite statistics and cases, overstates the amount of new and non-duplicative discovery, and exaggerates the challenge of reviewing it effectively,” the filing read.

Mr Smith asked US District Judge Tanya Chutkan to approve the government’s request to start the trial on January 2.

The National reports from Donald Trump's third indictment

The National reports from Donald Trump's third indictment

But he said the government would agree to move back jury selection to the week of December 11, after Mr Trump’s lawyers said there may be a timing conflict with his federal criminal case in Florida over the handling of classified documents.

“The government is confident that the court can and will, in this case as in any other, consider the parties’ proposals and its own calendar and navigate around true conflicts,” Mr Smith wrote.

Ms Chutkan is set to hear arguments over scheduling in the election case on August 28, including a trial date.

Mr Trump, who is campaigning for a return to the White House in 2024, has pleaded not guilty to the charges and his lawyers have indicated that they will fight the prosecution on several fronts.

News agencies contributed to this report

Updated: August 22, 2023, 5:25 AM