The lawyers said the extraordinary delay was needed given the historic nature of the case and the volume of discovery materials they will have to sort through in the coming months.
Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump asked a judge on Thursday to reject the government’s proposal to take Mr. Trump to trial in early January on charges of seeking to overturn the 2020 election and to instead push back the proceeding until April 2026 — nearly a year and a half after the 2024 election.
The lawyers said the extraordinary delay was needed because of the historic nature of the case and the extraordinary volume of discovery evidence they will have to sort through — as much as 8.5 terabytes of materials, totaling over 11.5 million pages, they wrote in a filing to Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the case.
In a bit of legal showmanship, Gregory M. Singer, the lawyer who wrote the brief, included a graph that showed how 11.5 million pages of documents stacked atop one another would result in a “tower of paper stretching nearly 5,000 feet into the sky.”
That, Mr. Singer pointed out, was “taller than the Washington Monument, stacked on top of itself eight times, with nearly a million pages to spare.”
“Even assuming we could begin reviewing the documents today, we would need to proceed at a pace of 99,762 pages per day to finish the government’s initial production by its proposed date for jury selection,” Mr. Singer wrote. “That is the entirety of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace,’ cover to cover, 78 times a day, every day, from now until jury selection.”
Mr. Trump’s aggressive request to postpone the trial in Federal District Court in Washington — a strategy he has pursued in all of the criminal cases he is facing — followed an equally ambitious proposal made last week by prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, to get the case in front of a jury by the first week of 2024.
Now that Mr. Trump has been indicted four times in four separate cases — most recently, on Monday in Fulton County, Ga. — prosecutors have started jockeying with one another to determine when the trials will be held. Complicating matters, Mr. Trump’s campaign schedule is set to pick up significantly this winter and spring with a series of primary elections just as he will be obliged to be in various courthouses in various cities as a criminal defendant.
The judge in the other federal case that Mr. Trump is facing — one in which he stands accused of illegally holding on to dozens of classified documents after he left office — has slated the matter to go to trial on May 20 in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla.
On Wednesday, Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, proposed starting the sprawling trial of Mr. Trump and 18 others on charges of tampering with Georgia’s state election on March 4.
And that was only three weeks before the March 25 start date for Mr. Trump’s fourth trial — one that will take place in Manhattan on charges related to hush money payments made to a porn star in the weeks before the 2016 election.
If the prosecutors all get their way — and there is no assurance they will — Mr. Trump could be on trial more or less nonstop, with a few weeks’ hiatus here and there, from early January through perhaps mid-June at a time when his campaign advisers will surely want him out on the trail holding rallies and meeting with voters.
Some of the former president’s advisers have made no secret of the fact that he is looking to win the next election as a way to try to solve his legal problems. If Mr. Trump, who is the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, can push the federal trials until after the election and prevail, he could seek to pardon himself after taking office or have his attorney general simply dismiss the matter altogether.
To that end, his lawyers have sought various ways to slow prosecutors in their race to get to trial and have tried to delay the proceedings where they can.
Last month, for example, they asked the judge in the documents case, Aileen M. Cannon, to postpone that trial indefinitely, arguing that it should not begin until all “substantive motions” in the case had been presented and decided. At a subsequent hearing, they told Judge Cannon that she should push back the trial until after the 2024 election because, among other reasons, Mr. Trump could never get a fair jury in the maelstrom of news media attention surrounding the race.
The lawyers tried that gambit again on Thursday with Judge Chutkan.
Mr. Singer noted in his filing that not only were the discovery materials expansive, but the case also involved several novel aspects that made it, as he put it, “terra incognita.”
“No person in the history of our country has ever been charged with conspiracies related to the Electoral Count Act,” he wrote, referring to the post-Civil War era law that governs the counting of electors to the Electoral College.
“No president has ever been charged with a crime for conduct committed while in office,” he continued. “No major party presidential candidate has ever been charged while in the middle of a campaign — and certainly not by a Justice Department serving his opponent.”
Mr. Singer also mentioned Mr. Trump’s increasingly crowded legal calendar, noting that the government’s proposal to go to trial in January “presents numerous conflicts” with what he genially described as “other pending matters.”
As an example, Mr. Singer pointed out that the judge in the Florida-based classified documents case has scheduled a pretrial hearing for Dec. 11 — the same day the special counsel’s office has proposed starting jury selection in the Washington-based election interference case.
Echoing Mr. Singer’s complaints, Christopher M. Kise, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers in the Florida case, alerted Judge Cannon about the conflicting proceedings on Dec. 11 in court papers filed on Thursday night.
Mr. Kise noted that he could “only speculate about the special counsel’s motive for offering dates in the newly indicted case that directly conflict with dates” in the Florida case, but seemed interested in making certain that Judge Cannon was aware of what was going on.
“The special counsel’s strategy asking for a schedule in the D.C. case that culminates in a proposed trial date of Jan. 2, 2024, is not merely gamesmanship by a partisan Department of Justice,” he wrote. “It is a miscarriage of justice.”