The court hearings are to start amid the presidential state primaries, with the billionaire being the leading GOP candidate FILE PHOTO: Former US PResident Donald Trump © Global Look Press / Seth Wenig-Pool

Former US President Donald Trump is to stand trial on charges of mishandling classified documents in May 2024, a court order issued on Friday suggested. The date pushes the court hearings deep into the 2024 US presidential race.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon ordered the trial to start on May 24. A pretrial hearing in Trump’s case is to be held on May 14. The dates place the hearings after most state primaries that are scheduled to be finished by mid-May, the US media report. Nebraska, Maryland and West Virginia are expected to hold their primary votes right on May 14, according to CNN. Oregon is to do it a week later and a few states, including New Jersey will vote on June 4, the network added.

According to AP, the Republican presidential nominee might be already clear by the time Trump is to arrive before the court, even though the official nomination would only take place at the Republican National Convention in July 2024.

Two weeks ago, Trump’s lawyers demanded his trial be delayed until after the 2024 presidential election. The prosecutors also requested a four-month postponement and called on the trial to be moved to December 2023.

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Cannon ruled on Friday that “the Government’s proposed schedule is atypically accelerated and inconsistent with ensuring a fair trial,” adding that the amount of evidence that needs to be examined in this case is “voluminous and likely to increase in the normal course as trial approaches.”

“The Court finds that the interests of justice served by this continuance outweigh the best interest of the public and Defendants in a speedy trial,” she added.

Trump’s campaign already hailed the decision as a “major setback to the DOJ’s crusade to deny President Trump a fair legal process.” The “extensive schedule” would allow Trump and his legal team to “continue fighting this empty hoax,” it added.

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The prosecutors did not comment on the decision.

Trump pleaded not guilty last month to 37 felony counts regarding his alleged mishandling of classified documents following his departure from the White House. The 300-plus documents were recovered by the FBI, including during a controversial raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last August. They reportedly included classified national security material related to nuclear secrets and the country’s defense capabilities.

Trump repeatedly argued he had “every right” to keep the documents in question. He also told Fox News earlier that he had no time to return them when asked by the federal officials.

The indictment saw Trump’s polling lead double over his closest rival for the Republican 2024 nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The former US president was also polling ahead of the incumbent one, Joe Biden. (RT)