The Trump Trials: School’s out, court’s in

the trump trials: school’s out, court’s in

The Trump Trials: School’s out, court’s in

School’s out for summer, but court is still in session. Welcome back to another edition of the Trump Trials newsletter, where we keep you updated on the various criminal cases against the former president.

Have questions on the trials? Email us at [email protected] and [email protected] and check for answers in future newsletters.

No more teachers, no more books — but lots more hearings, motions and rulings. So sharpen that pencil and let’s get started.

(Like what you’re reading? Get The Trump Trials in your email inbox every Sunday.)

What’s ahead

On Friday, Judge Aileen M. Cannon will hold a hearing in Florida on Donald Trump’s effort to dismiss the classified documents charges against him based on the argument that special counsel Jack Smith was unlawfully appointed. Given the recent history of special counsel appointments, the defense argument seems a bit of a reach. But Cannon has shown a great deal of interest in the question — even allowing outside parties to argue before her at the hearing about why the appointment was supposedly unlawful.

And given that we are heading into late June, every day puts us closer to a decision from the Supreme Court on Trump’s claim that presidential immunity protects him from prosecution on federal charges of obstructing the results of the 2020 election.

Now, a recap of last week’s action.

1. Florida: Federal classified documents case

The details: Trump faces 40 federal charges over accusations that he kept top-secret government documents at Mar-a-Lago — his home and private club — and thwarted government demands to return them.

Planned trial date: Indefinitely postponed

Last week: Cannon handled a motion to dismiss in what has become her trademark style: ruling primarily in favor of the prosecution on the broad merits, while at the same time criticizing the prosecution.

The judge deleted one paragraph of the Trump indictment, which alleges that Trump showed a classified document in September 2021 about a military operation to someone without a security clearance. She ruled that particular allegation should not be part of the indictment because it’s not connected to a specific crime that Trump is accused of committing.

Nerd word of the week

Speaking indictment: Cannon’s displeasure with prosecutors was based on the fact that the Trump charging document was written as a “speaking indictment.” That’s lawyer-speak for packing in a lot of detail. Or, as Cannon described it, it included “various nonessential allegations more akin to a narrative about the government’s theory of prosecution.”

Some indictments, like those against accused drug cartel kingpins, are bare-bones descriptions that hardly say anything about the specific alleged crimes, in part because prosecutors don’t want to leave clues about who the witnesses are. Others, called speaking indictments, are longer and contain many specifics. In recent years, special counsels tend to file longer, speaking indictments.

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2. New York: State hush money case

The details: 34 charges connected to a 2016 hush money payment.

Trial date: Began April 15, guilty verdict May 30

Last week: Trump, as a newly convicted defendant, on Monday went through the next step of the criminal justice system: an interview with a New York probation officer.

Accompanied by his lawyer and speaking from Florida via video, Trump answered the officer’s questions about his history and his case. Those answers will inform a report in advance of his sentencing, which is scheduled for July 11.

Separately, Trump’s lawyers asked the presiding judge in the case, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, to lift the gag order barring him from talking about witnesses in the case. His side argued that as a presidential candidate, he should be able to respond to criticism, particularly now that the trial is over. Prosecutors have argued that the restrictions should remain in place at least until his sentencing.

Question Time

Q. At Trump’s trial in New York, defense lawyer Todd Blanche was scolded by Merchan for urging the jury not to send the former president “to prison.” Did the judge say anything to the jury about what his sentence might be? Will Blanche face consequences for this improper argument?

A. Blanche’s comment was hardly the first time a defense lawyer in state court has suggested to a jury that their decision will send their client to prison. It is, however, a definite no-no.

Merchan told the jury before they began deliberating that they may “not consider or speculate about matters relating to sentence or punishment. If there is a verdict of guilty, it will be my responsibility to impose an appropriate sentence.” There’s a first time for everything, but in years of covering trials, we haven’t seen a defense lawyer punished for improper closing arguments.

3. Georgia: State case on 2020 election

The details: Trump faces 10 state charges over allegedly trying to undo the election results in that state. Four of his 18 co-defendants have pleaded guilty.

Planned trial date: None yet

Last week: District Attorney Fani T. Willis’s office asked a Georgia appellate court to dismiss Trump’s effort to get Willis thrown off the case against the former president and his allies.

Trump and other defendants have argued that Willis has a conflict of interest because of a romantic relationship with Nathan Wade, a lawyer she hired to help prosecute the case.

Wade made headlines of his own last week after he struggled to answer a question in a CNN interview about when the relationship with Willis began.

4. D.C.: Federal case on 2020 election

Planned trial date: Unclear (was March 4, but that’s been delayed)

Last week: All quiet, but we are edging closer to a Supreme Court decision that could unfreeze the case.

Thanks for catching up with us. You can find past issues here.

Suggested Reading

In meeting with GOPers, Trump calls Justice Dept. “dirty, no good”

Ahead of sentencing, Trump calls probation officer

Judge Cannon strikes paragraph in Trump classified document indictment

Trump seeks to have gag order lifted

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