Jack Smith, the special counsel, has asked a federal judge to move back the start of the trial of former President Donald J. Trump and his co-defendant, Walt Nauta, in the classified documents case from August to Dec. 11, according to a Justice Department filing made public late Friday.
The Justice Department proposal still calls for a relatively speedy timetable; Judge Aileen M. Cannon’s earlier ruling set the initial trial date at Aug. 14, but it was considered something of an administrative place holder, with both sides anticipating significant procedural delays.
In their filing, prosecutors said the additional time would be needed to obtain security clearances for defense lawyers and deal with the procedures around classified evidence. It would also give defense lawyers more time to review the volumes of materials prosecutors have turned over to them, the filing said.
Mr. Smith and his team argued in the filing that the trial should still be fast-tracked despite its enormous political implications, because it “involves straightforward theories of liability, and does not present novel questions of fact or law,” nor is it particularly “unusual or complex” from a legal perspective.
Mr. Smith’s team also provided the defense lawyers with its first estimate of the number of witnesses — 84 — who might be called to testify. The judge presiding over Mr. Trump’s initial hearing requested the list to impose a restriction against the former president discussing the case with them, to prevent witness tampering.
Prosecutors requested that the names be kept under seal, cautioned that the tally “does not comprise all of the witnesses the government might call at trial,” and said the defense had reserved the right to challenge those on the list.
The special counsel also set into motion a set of mandated procedures under the Classified Information Procedures Act that will give lawyers for Mr. Trump and Mr. Nauta, Mr. Trump’s valet and personal aide, access to classified evidence the government plans to present at trial. The classified documents are a key component of the case against Mr. Trump, in which he faces charges of risking national defense secrets and obstruction over his retention of the material after he left the White House and his refusal to return it.
The defense may not share the prosecution’s urgency, and prosecutors said in their filing that defense lawyers planned to object to the special counsel’s timeline. Mr. Trump’s strategy in legal matters has long been to delay. If a trial drags past the 2024 election and Mr. Trump wins the race, he could, in theory, try to pardon himself, or he could direct his attorney general to drop the charges and wipe out the case.
The extent to which the two sides clash on scheduling and procedure poses an early test for Judge Cannon, a relatively inexperienced jurist appointed by Mr. Trump in 2020. She disrupted the documents investigation last year with several rulings favorable to the former president before a conservative appeals court overturned her, saying that she never had legal authority to intervene.
The filing comes just before the formal arraignment in Miami federal court of Mr. Nauta, scheduled for Tuesday. He could not be formally arraigned with Mr. Trump on June 13 because his Washington-based attorney had not yet been given standing by the court.
Earlier this week, the government began handing over unclassified discovery materials to the defense, including documents obtained through warrants and subpoenas, transcripts of grand jury testimony and witness interviews, and copies of closed-circuit television footage the government obtained during its investigation, according to the filing.