Judge Cannon extends hearing on Trump’s request to declare special counsel appointment invalid


Judge Aileen Cannon is once again shaking up the hearing schedule in former President Donald Trump’s classified documents case, pushing back even further some of the legal questions that have been before her for months.

Cannon plans to hold an expanded hearing on Trump’s request to declare Jack Smith’s nomination as special counsel invalid, signaling that she may be more willing than any other trial judge to veto the authority of the special prosecutor.

The planned hearing also adds an unusual new twist in the federal criminal case against the former president: Cannon said Tuesday that a variety of political supporters and constitutional experts not otherwise involved in the case could join oral arguments more late this month.

It’s an extraordinary elevation of arguments in a criminal case — filed a year ago this week — that likely won’t go to trial until next year, if at all.

On Wednesday, Cannon went further, adding a hearing on a request for prosecutors’ silence aimed at limiting Trump’s rhetoric on law enforcement and allowing more time to hear arguments on the issue of special counsels.

Cannon will hear arguments on these issues the week of June 21, as well as on Trump’s efforts to dismiss evidence in his case that was collected by the FBI during its 2022 Mar-a-Lago raid or provided by his former lawyer. Evan Corcoran before a grand jury.

At the same time, she delayed other hearings without setting a new date.

The rescheduling is the latest example of the approach Cannon has taken so far in national security cases: scheduling court hearing times for arguments that other courts have mostly denied and postponing the resolution of various legal issues by several months.

Similar challenges from Trump and other high-profile targets of special counsel investigations have failed coast-to-coast in recent years: Hunter Biden’s lawyer got nowhere with judges from Los Angeles and Delaware; Paul Manafort’s arguments fell flat when the former Trump campaign chairman challenged special counsel Robert Mueller’s authority; and Andrew Miller, a former associate of Roger Stone, also lost his challenge to Mueller’s authority.

Even if other federal trial judges allow special counsel criminal prosecutions, Cannon could rule differently.

Cannon’s signal that he is willing to respond to challenges to the special counsel comes the same week that Republicans are attacking Attorney General Merrick Garland over his use of special counsel.

The issue, currently before the federal court in the Southern District of Florida, will likely remain in political debate at least until Cannon holds a hearing on the special prosecutor’s legal authority to prosecute a defendant on June 21.

Cannon has already taken a radically different approach from other federal trial judges who have handled criminal cases charged recently by special counsel’s offices — there have been five since Trump became president.

While others moved quickly to trial — including special counsel David Weiss who tried his case against Hunter Biden in Delaware this week, eight months after the indictment — Cannon moved slowly on the issues pre-trial of Trump and his two co-defendants. Many of the most important legal questions to be decided in the classified records case, which the Justice Department first filed against Trump last June, are not yet ripe for decision.

And it is highly unusual for a federal trial judge to allow a third-party group unaffiliated with a criminal case to argue in court as part of a defendant’s legal challenges to the case itself. This work is mainly reserved for teams of defendants who must plead in courts across the country, facing prosecutors from the Department of Justice. Allowing third parties to argue in court is even rare in appellate situations.

“The fact that these motions are even being considered with a hearing is in itself ridiculous. “The fact that third parties are allowed to open up to the hearing is absurd,” Bradley Moss, a national security law expert based in Washington, DC, told CNN.

But Cannon was convinced by three separate groups of lawyers that they should be able to argue before her. Two of these groups support Trump’s position to dismiss the charges against him and argue that the special prosecutor, for various constitutional reasons, does not have the authority to prosecute. A third group believes that the Justice Department’s use of a special counsel should be maintained.

Two former Republican-appointed U.S. attorneys general, Edwin Meese and Michael Mukasey, are among the groups of so-called “friends of the court” who side with Trump and whom Cannon will hear from. The three groups will be allowed to debate, in addition to the Justice Department and the defendants’ lawyers, for 30 minutes each, according to the court filing.

Meese and Mukasey have a special insight to share with the judge, they say, given their former roles leading the Justice Department.

Meanwhile, Cannon on Wednesday delayed an initially planned several-day proceeding in which Trump’s team wanted to question federal officials under oath about how they handled the investigation.

Trump’s legal team is trying to convince the judge to force the government to provide more records from offices far from the executive branch. The special counsel’s office made a personal case to Cannon months ago that having federal government officials testify at this point in the case — as Trump wants — would be an unprecedented exploitation of the court.

Cannon always agreed to the audience Trump wanted. But this hearing is no longer planned.

01:21 – Source: CNN

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This story has been updated with additional developments.

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