Judge deals blow to Jack Smith in Trump classified documents case

 January 14, 2024

As the federal classified documents handling the case against Donald Trump continues apace, Judge Aileen Cannon has just drawn the ire of many on the left for rejecting special counsel Jack Smith's request to compel the former president to disclose his intentions regarding a potential defense strategy, as Newsweek reports.

The development represents the latest in a series of setbacks for Smith in his quest to secure a conviction of Trump well ahead of the November general election.

Smith demands defense disclosure

As Law & Crime explains, back in November, Smith submitted a motion to Cannon asking her to require Trump to reveal whether he plans to make use of a so-called “advice of counsel” defense to allegations that he unlawfully retained classified materials after leaving the White House in 2021.

In his filing, Smith wrote, “[Trump] has publicly stated he was 'told' he had no legal obligation to return classified documents to the Government or presidential records to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), thereby indicating a possible defense of good faith reliance on advice of counsel.”

Smith referenced a series of statements made by the former president over the course of recent months and added that “these examples raise the possibility that defendant Trump will assert an advice-of-counsel defense at trial, necessitating the notice and discovery the Government seeks here.”

Cannon says no

The judge ruled on Smith's request via an order posted electronically to the docket on Friday, declaring the special counsel's demand to be premature.

Cannon wrote, “Assuming the facts and circumstances in this case warrant an order compelling disclosure of an advice-of-counsel trial defense, the Court determines that such a request is not amenable to proper consideration at this juncture, prior to at least partial resolution of pre-trial motions, transmission to Defendants of the Special Counsel's exhibit and witness lists, and other disclosures as may become necessary.”

As such, Cannon added, Smith's motion was dismissed without prejudice, meaning that the special counsel retains the ability to raise the issue again at some point in the future.

Backlash ensues

In response to Cannon's recent decision and while also referencing prior rulings she believes unduly favor Trump, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance took to X to vent her obvious frustrations, as Newsweek noted.

“In the Mar-a-Lago case, Judge Cannon has just refused to enforce a routine deadline & it's entirely clear she has no intention of letting this case go to trial before the election or possibly ever.”

In a prior appearance on MSNBC, Vance lamented what she believes is the unnecessarily slow pace of progress in some of Trump's cases.

“So I think this is the key question because Trump's overall strategy is of delay, get everything past the election, hope that you win and you can resolve everything from the Oval Office in your favor.”

Legal commentator Amee Vanderpool echoed Vance's exasperation, saying that, “Cannon continues to protect Trump and make sure this case is drawn out past the 2024 election.”

Given the lightning speed at which those prosecuting Trump in multiple jurisdictions have attempted to bring their cases to trial, however, such criticisms come across to many as utterly disingenuous and borne largely out of irritation that their own delay tactics have not been met with the expected level of success.

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