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Documents case: Trump's plea sets stage for months of proceedings

Documents case: Trump's plea sets stage for months of proceedings

Trump documents case is expected to extend over months, possibly more than a year, while Trump aims to win back the presidency in the 2024 election

Former US President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to federal criminal charges related to unlawfully keeping national-security documents and lying to officials who sought to recover them.

The case is expected to play out over several months, possibly extending beyond a year before a trial takes place. Trump's plea, entered in a federal court in Miami, initiates a legal battle while he concurrently pursues his bid to regain the presidency in the 2024 election.

Accompanied by his aide, Walt Nauta, who is also facing charges in the case, Trump left the court without any conditions or travel restrictions. However, the judge ruled that Trump must not communicate with potential witnesses. Nauta, lacking a local lawyer, will enter his plea on June 27 and was also released without having to post bond.

In the coming months, federal prosecutors are expected to provide Trump's lawyers with evidence, including extensive correspondence related to the disputed documents. Trump's legal team is likely to file a motion to dismiss the case, citing various reasons, such as Trump's claim that he had declassified the documents before taking possession of them. They may also argue that the case should be thrown out due to alleged misconduct by the prosecutors, including potential violations of attorney-client privilege.

While motions to dismiss are common in criminal cases, they rarely succeed as defendants face a high burden of proving that their case is too flawed for a trial. At this stage, prosecutors generally receive the benefit of the doubt regarding their factual allegations.

Regarding the impact on Trump's campaign, the charges against him, including violations of the Espionage Act, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and making false statements, do not automatically prevent him from campaigning or assuming office if convicted. Recent polls indicate that Trump still leads the Republican nomination race for the 2024 presidential election by a substantial margin, with the majority of Republican voters considering the charges politically motivated.

As for the trial timeline, a "speedy" trial has been mentioned by Special Counsel Jack Smith, but a trial within 100 days is unlikely due to the complexity of the case. The parties involved are expected to agree on extending deadlines as they review evidence and argue legal disputes before a judge.

Whether Trump will testify in his defense remains uncertain. Defendants are not obligated to testify, and the risks associated with subjecting themselves to cross-examination by prosecutors often deter them. In a recent civil trial, Trump chose not to testify, resulting in a jury finding him liable in that case.

If Trump were to win the 2024 presidential election, it is unlikely that the prosecution would proceed. The US Department of Justice has a longstanding policy that sitting presidents cannot be prosecuted. The only exception would be in "extraordinary circumstances" with the approval of the US attorney general, who serves under the president's administration. However, a president has the power to remove the attorney general and appoint an acting replacement of their choice.

The legal proceedings surrounding Trump's classified document case are poised to dominate the political and legal landscape for the foreseeable future. As the case progresses, its implications for Trump's campaign and the potential outcomes of a trial will continue to generate significant interest and scrutiny.


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