The judge presiding over the Justice Department’s criminal case against former president Donald Trump said Tuesday that the trial could begin as early as Aug. 14 – a timetable that is likely to be pushed back as lawyers navigate the complexities of an unprecedented case that hinges on highly sensitive classified documents.

Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a federal judge in Florida, wrote in a court filing Tuesday morning that hearings in the case would be held in her Fort Pierce courthouse, though she noted that location could change as the criminal proceedings get underway.

The government filed its 38-count indictment against Trump and his valet, Walt Nauta, in the West Palm Beach courthouse, about an hour south of rural Fort Pierce. Cannon has the authority to decide in which of the five divisions within the Southern District of Florida the trial will take place.

“This case is hereby set for a Criminal Jury Trial during the two-week period commencing August 14, 2023, or as soon thereafter as the case may be called. A Calendar Call will be held at 1:45 p.m. on August 8, 2023,” Cannon wrote.

She asked lawyers on both sides to file any pretrial motions by July 24.

The fast timetable set by Cannon suggests that she does not want Trump’s trial proceedings to drag on. But legal experts say the case could face numerous delays because of the complexities of dealing with classified information and is likely to take longer than most to reach a jury.


Trump, the first former U.S. president ever charged with a crime, is accused of illegally withholding 31 documents containing classified national defense information. That means his lawyers need to obtain the necessary security clearance to view the evidence – a process that could take months.

When announcing the indictment, special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the classified documents case for the Justice Department, said he would push for a speedy trial.

Trump is again running for president and is leading in the polls for the Republican nomination. His Florida court proceedings – along with hearings and appearances in an unrelated indictment on fraud charges in New York – appear likely to take place alongside the 2024 primary and general election campaigns.

Trump and some of his GOP competitors have slammed both investigations as partisan. If a Republican is elected president and takes office before the federal trial is concluded, he or she could tell the Justice Department to drop the charges against Trump, ending the criminal proceedings.

The case will be tried under the rules of the Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA – a law that spells out pretrial steps that must be taken to decide what classified information will be used in court, and how. Those steps take time, adding to the likelihood of multiple delays before trial.

Legal experts have said Cannon’s lack of experience in trials related to national security could also slow down the proceedings. Cannon, 42, was nominated by Trump during his final year in office and has less than three years of experience on the bench.

Last fall, she issued a controversial ruling in response to a lawsuit Trump filed that initially slowed the FBI review of classified documents seized at Mar-a-Lago. She was roundly reversed by a conservative panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Federal court officials in southern Florida have said say she was assigned randomly to preside over the trial after Trump was indicted by a Miami grand jury this month.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: