The federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of mishandling classified documents signaled on Wednesday that she was inclined to make some “reasonable adjustments” to the timing of the case, expressing concern that it could “collide” with Mr. Trump’s other federal trial.
Speaking during a hearing in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla., the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, did not specify how she planned to change the schedule of the documents case and said she would soon issue a written order with the details.
But she seemed skeptical that the trial date in the documents case — now set for May 20 — could comfortably coexist with Mr. Trump’s Washington-based trial on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election, which is set to start in early March.
“I’m having a hard time seeing, realistically, how this work can be accomplished in this compressed time period,” Judge Cannon said.
She was responding to the latest request by Mr. Trump’s lawyers to delay the proceedings, part of a pattern in which they have sought to push his trial dates back as far as possible. Mr. Trump has made no secret of his hopes for him to postpone any legal reckoning until after Election Day. That could provide him with a chance, he should win the presidency again, to order the federal charges against him dropped or to attempt to pardon himself in the federal cases if convicted.
The timing of Mr. Trump’s criminal trials — two in federal court in Florida and Washington and two more in state courts in Georgia and New York — has added a layer of logistical complexity to the already fraught legal and political challenges of pursuing charges against him as he mounts another run for the country’s highest office.
The proceedings have needed to be slotted on the calendar not only in relation to one another, but also against the backdrop of an increasingly busy campaign season. Complicating matters, no single person or authority has been coordinating the arrangements, which have seemed at times like competing air traffic controllers trying to land four airplanes on the same runway with a hurricane blowing in.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers and prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, have been fighting over the timing of the trial documents almost from the moment an indictment in the case was filed in June in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla. The indictment charges the former president with illegally holding on to 32 classified national security documents after he left office and then conspiring with two personal aides to obstruct the government’s repeated efforts to get the documents back.
Mr. Trump’s legal team has repeatedly argued that the case should go to trial only after the 2024 election is over. They rarely mention in public, however, that if that were to happen and Mr. Trump were to win the race, he could dispose of the charges by having his attorney general simply drop them.
In court on Wednesday, Todd Blanche, a lawyer for Mr. Trump said something he had to give, suggesting it was unworkable to try the former president in Washington in March on the election interference indictment then suddenly try him again in Florida in May on the classified materials charges.
“The real pressure on President Trump and on us, his counsel,” Mr. Blanche said, “is the compressed schedule in the case in Washington, DC, and the schedule in this case.”
Echoing that position, Christopher M. Kise, who is working with Mr. Blanche on the case, warned Judge Cannon of the “challenges of having close-in-time or even overlapping trials.”
Mr. Kise was a kind of case study for his own argument, having been dialed in to the Florida hearing while on break from yet another one of Mr. Trump’s trials: a civil proceeding in Manhattan in which his company has been accused of fraudulently inflating the value of his real estate holdings.
Jay I. Bratt, a prosecutor in the special counsel’s office, started his own remarks to Judge Cannon by accusing Mr. Trump’s lawyers of using the same tactic over and over in the classified documents case — namely, trying “to delay it as long as “they can.”
But Mr. Bratt sidestepped Judge Cannon when she asked him if he could think of any other situation in which a criminal defendant was facing trial in “multiple jurisdictions” and might face the “unavoidable reality that the schedules could collide.”
While the questions about timing were consequential, some of the details discussed at the hearing were exceedingly technical.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers have claimed that one of the reasons the trial should be pushed back is to avoid rushing the complex process of receiving and digesting the voluminous discovery evidence provided to them by the government and then using that material to file pretrial motions.
The lawyers also raised a host of logistical concerns that have slowed down the case as it makes its way toward trial.
For instance, Stanley Woodward Jr., a lawyer for Mr. Trump’s co-defendant, Walt Nauta, said that he had not yet obtained a full security clearance for the most sensitive documents involved in the case.
There have also been delays in building secure facilities in which to review the classified materials, including one at the Fort Pierce courthouse for Judge Cannon.
During the hearing, Mr. Trump’s lawyers offered a few hints about potential defenses they could use to fight the indictment in the case.
Mr. Blanche said he might seek to cast doubt on whether some of the documents actually contained so-called national defense information. He also suggested that even after leaving office, Mr. Trump maintained a special security clearance that gave him permission to possess at least one of the classified documents that he has been charged with holding on to.