Judge Cannon sharply presses attorneys for Trump to explain outlandish defense arguments

By 
 June 22, 2024

Former President Donald Trump and his attorneys have raised various defense claims in his classified documents case, some more outlandish than others.

During a hearing on Friday, District Judge Aileen Cannon may have saved Trump from himself by grilling one of his attorneys on one of the more dubious claims that has been raised, according to the Daily Beast.

The hearing was centered on the argument that Special Counsel Jack Smith's initial appointment by Attorney General Merrick Garland was unconstitutional and tantamount to the unaccountable power of a "shadow government."

Trump's attorneys pressed on "shadow government" claim

CNN reported that Judge Cannon had several pointed questions prepared for former President Trump's attorneys and their challenge to the legitimacy of Special Counsel Smith's appointment and subsequent actions.

At one point in the day-long proceeding, Trump's attorney Emil Bove likened Smith to a "shadow government," which prompted Cannon to say, "That sounds very ominous. But what do you really mean?"

Bove dodged that question and merely reiterated the assertion that Smith's appointment was improper, though he did suggest that a separate hearing should be held to determine whether the special counsel is truly an independent actor or if he is taking directions from AG Garland, which, if so, would seem to bolster the separate but related claim that Smith is prosecuting Trump at President Joe Biden's behest.

Hard questions for the prosecutors

However, while Judge Cannon pressed Trump's attorneys on their wilder claims, Politico reported that she also had several hard questions for the prosecuting attorneys, including about the actual level of supervision the attorney general has over the special counsel.

The outlet noted that the government lawyers were "caught off-guard" by the probing questions and danced around the subject, with one claiming he was "not authorized" to disclose internal DOJ communications even as he acknowledged that his replies "make it seem like I’m hiding something."

AG Garland and the DOJ have previously insisted that there has been "no coordination" between the department and the special counsel's office, but Trump's attorneys have claimed otherwise and asserted that Smith is essentially Biden's hatchet man tasked with going after his main political rival ahead of the 2024 election.

More hearings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday

USA Today reported that Friday's hearing was the first of three major hearings scheduled by Judge Cannon in the classified documents case, with that day's proceedings focused on the allegation that Special Counsel Smith's appointment was illegitimate.

In addition to hearing arguments from Trump's attorneys and federal prosecutors, Cannon also opened up the hearing to three outside groups -- two in support of Trump and one supporting Smith -- and heard their arguments about whether or not AG Garland had the statutory authority to appoint Smith to the powerful prosecutorial position, or if Smith was even properly qualified to serve in that role.

The proceedings will resume on Monday with a pair of hearings, the first of which will focus on the legality of the funding Smith's office has received while the second will deal with a request from prosecutors to impose a partial gag order on the former president.

The hearings will wrap up on Tuesday with arguments over Trump's assertion that the August 2022 FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago was unconstitutional, and as such, all evidence collected from that raid should be dismissed from the case.

Judge Cannon has given no clear indications of how she will rule on any of these matters, and the fact that she had tough questions for both sides during Friday's hearing makes it even more difficult to predict the eventual outcome.

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