U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has set May 24, 2024, as the start date for the trial of former President Donald Trump in the classified documents case.
The judge’s order surprised many as she was among those handpicked by the former president, and was widely expected to put off the trial until the general election. Political and legal experts characterized the early trial date as a setback for Trump.
Trump is currently facing 37 counts on mishandling of classified documents where a federal grand jury in Miami indicted him.
However, one report suggests there could be a silver lining for the former president.
The trial is set to begin in Fort Pierce in St. Lucie County, which is predominantly Republican, a Business Insider report said. The report noted that about 72% of voters in the neighboring Okeechobee County voted for Trump in the 2020 election. About 66.8% of voters in Highlands County, 62% in Martin County, 60.4% in Indian River County and 50.4% in St. Lucie County cast ballots for Trump, it added. Jurors for the trial will therefore come from these mainly Republican regions in South Florida.
Cannon drew flak last year over a bizarre ruling that favored Trump but was randomly selected this summer to oversee the Department’s Justice’s case against the former president.
Her ruling in favor of Trump for a special master was then sent to special Judge Raymond Dearie, who ruled in favor of the Department of Justice.
Dearie ruled that the defense didn’t provide enough evidence to refute the DOJ’s assertion, which ultimately lead to his words to the Trump team “put up or shut up.’
The expedited trial was set partly at the behest of the special counsel Jack Smith, who had clamored to start before the end of the year. Trump’s legal team, on the other hand, argued in favor of the trial starting after the 2024 presidential election, reasoning that it would clash with his campaign schedule.
“[Cannon] doesn’t have any experience in criminal cases involving classified information. She hasn’t actually presided over a lengthy jury trial. They’ve all been short,” Stephen Saltzburg, a George Washington University law school professor and former Justice Department official, said of Cannon’s trial background. “On another hand, she might bring, as a younger judge, energy to this. But I think this is the kind of case where experience really does matter.”
Trump is currently the leading contender in the GOP presidential primary race, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis coming in at a distant second.
The former president is clearly ahead in the polls in the GOP primary, but is within 5 points behind President Joe Biden.
The GOP is currently seeking an alternative candidate to Trump as some have viewed his legal troubles as a liability for the party and the race for the White House.
Trump is expected to be indicted by Smith for the second in the January 6 probe and in the Georgia election interference from Fulton County DA Fani Willis.
Produced in association with Benzinga