Trump judge strikes 'legally unnecessary' portion of indictment in classified documents case

 June 12, 2024

Donald Trump scored another legal win in his classified documents case after the judge struck a paragraph of gratuitous, prejudicial commentary from the indictment.

Judge Aileen Cannon rejected requests from Trump's lawyers to have the charges dismissed on various technical grounds. But she rebuked prosecutor Jack Smith for including "legally unnecessary" details about uncharged conduct. 

Smith included the details in what Cannon described disparagingly as a "speaking indictment", that is, an indictment that goes into more detail than the charges require to tell a broader story.

Smith's indictment revised

The struck paragraph "improperly contained uncharged offense allegations," Cannon said, about a 2021 incident in which Trump allegedly showed a document to a person who was not authorized to see it.

Her order does not completely bar Smith from introducing evidence about the incident at trial. But Cannon noted the "risks" of prosecutors sharing "an extensive narrative account of his or her view of the facts, especially in cases of significant public interest.”

Cannon left intact language about a similar incident in which Trump allegedly showed a battle plan to an audience of people at his New Jersey golf club. Smith initially did not charge Trump over the incident but later did in a superseding indictment.

Smith has deployed similar tactics in his January 6th case, which lays out a sweeping narrative about a violent attack on "democracy" that stretches far beyond the charges themselves. The judge in that case, which is stalled, declined to remove the prejudicial language.

Judge holds Smith back

Judge Cannon, on the other hand, has issued a number of rulings against Smith and has admonished him on several occasions, including a blistering ruling where she described Smith's conduct as "wholly lacking in substance and professional courtesy."

While the charges remain, Cannon, a Trump appointee, has postponed the complex trial indefinitely over unresolved pre-trial issues. Her handling of the case has made her a target of Democrats and left-wing pundits, who accuse her of delaying the trial to benefit Trump.

Trump's lawyers filed another motion Monday to dismiss the charges, citing Smith's failure to preserve the original order of the seized documents.

Smith is also facing a challenge to his authority at a June 21 hearing, where Cannon has permitted outside experts to argue that the Special Counsel was illegally appointed.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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