Trump Documents Case: Judge Cannon Holds Hearing Today On Jack Smith’s Appointment

Trump Documents Case: Judge Cannon Holds Hearing Today On Jack Smith’s Appointment


U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon will hold a hearing Friday to consider Special Counsel Jack Smith’s role in former President Donald Trump’s criminal case for allegedly mishandling White House documents, as the Trump-appointed judge has already indefinitely delayed the litigation from going to trial—and drawn criticism from legal experts over her handling of the case.

Special Counsel Jack Smith’s appointment will be up for debate at a Friday hearing in Trump’s … [+] documents case.

The Washington Post via Getty Images

Key Facts

Cannon will hear arguments Friday—and likely Monday morning—in Florida over Trump’s motion to dismiss the case, as the ex-president claimed the Constitution does not give the attorney general authority to appoint a third-party special counsel.

“Jack Smith lacks the authority to prosecute this action,” Trump’s lawyers argued in a filing, claiming his appointment is “invalid” because the Constitution never established an Office of the Special Counsel and neither did Congress.

The DOJ said in a filing Trump’s argument is “incorrect,” arguing the attorney general does have full authority to appoint a special counsel and Smith’s work is lawfully funded.

In addition to hearing from Trump and prosecutors, Cannon has also allowed outside legal experts to present arguments during the hearing about whether Smith was lawfully appointed—a decision that other legal professionals have described as “unusual.”

Defendants in a number of other recent high-profile cases have previously tried to make arguments challenging a special counsel’s authority, but have never succeeded, including President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and former Trump advisor Paul Manafort.

Legal experts are unsure whether Cannon—a Trump appointee—will similarly strike the ex-president’s challenge down, however, with Katy Harriger, an expert on special counsels at Wake Forest University, telling The Washington Post that while past precedent “would suggest a judge who knew the law would quickly dismiss such claims … in our current political and legal climate, nothing is a sure thing.”

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What To Watch For

The arguments over Smith’s appointment are expected to continue all day Friday and stretch into Monday morning, according to a schedule Cannon set earlier in June. The judge will then also hear arguments Monday over prosecutors’ request to modify Trump’s conditions of release, as the DOJ wants Cannon to “to make clear that [Trump]

may not make statements that pose a significant, imminent, and foreseeable danger to law enforcement agents” who have participated in the case. The request comes after Trump claimed Biden allowed FBI agents to use “deadly force” when they searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in 2022, which is false and distorted common language used in search warrants. Trump has opposed the request to modify his conditions of release, calling it Smith’s “most recent shocking display of overreach and disregard for the Constitution.” Cannon will also then hear arguments on Tuesday related to several other issues, including Trump’s request for the court to suppress evidence in the case that the DOJ gathered when it searched Mar-a-Lago. It’s unclear when she’ll rule on Smith’s appointment and any of the other issues being raised at the hearings.

What We Don’t Know

When the case against Trump will go to trial. Cannon indefinitely delayed the trial, which was originally slated to start in May, at the last minute on May 8, after pushing back a series of deadlines in the case. She has not given any timeline of when the trial could now take place, and has drawn criticism from legal experts for purportedly “slow-walking” the litigation. While there’s no sense of when the trial could begin, it’s all but certain it will not get underway before the November general election—potentially giving Trump an opportunity to install sympathetic officials at the DOJ who will drop the criminal charges against him if he wins the presidency.

Chief Critic

Cannon’s handling of Trump’s criminal case has drawn widespread scrutiny from legal experts, including her decision to hold a day-long hearing over Smith’s appointment with arguments from outside lawyers. “The fact these motions are even being entertained with a hearing is itself ridiculous,” national security expert Bradley Moss told CNN. “That third parties are being allowed to opine at the hearing is absurd.”


The hearing in the Mar-a-Lago case comes hours after The New York Times reported Thursday night that other judges on Cannon’s federal court in Florida—including the court’s chief judge—urged the Trump appointee to turn down the ex-president’s criminal case. She refused to do so. In addition to being appointed by the president whose case she now oversees, Cannon has also drawn scrutiny for having little practical trial experience as a judge, as she was only appointed to the bench in 2020. Chief Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga also reportedly urged Cannon to step aside given the “optics” of her appointment, the Times reports, after Cannon drew widespread condemnation from legal experts for how she handled the government’s investigation into the documents Trump retained before prosecutors brought criminal charges. Cannon ordered the appointment of a third-party “special master” to review the documents the FBI seized at Mar-a-Lago—and her ruling was later overturned by higher courts.

Key Background

Trump faces 40 federal felony charges in the documents case, as prosecutors allege he willfully retained national defense information and then obstructed the government’s investigation into the documents. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, decrying the case against him as a “witch hunt” and claiming he had authority to take White House documents back to Mar-a-Lago with him. Prosecutors allege Trump purposefully concealed classified documents from his attorneys as they tried to comply with a government subpoena to turn over all remaining classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, also indicting two Trump aides who the government alleges helped him hide the documents. Trump’s challenge against Smith’s authority comes as the ex-president has long railed against the special counsel and other prosecutors who have brought charges against him, decrying Smith as a “thug” and claiming the case against him is politically motivated in order to hurt his candidacy in the presidential election. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith to oversee the government’s investigations into Trump in November 2022, and Smith oversees both the documents case and the federal case against Trump for trying to overturn the 2020 election. The prosecutor—one of several the DOJ has appointed over the past few years, as the government has also probed President Joe Biden and his son—previously investigated war crimes for the International Criminal Court in The Hague prior to his DOJ appointment.

Further Reading

ForbesTrump Wants ‘Lowlife’ Jack Smith ‘Sanctioned Or Censured’ For Criticizing Judge’s Order In Classified Docs CaseBy Sara Dorn

ForbesTrump Attacks Prosecutors After Jack Smith Defends Classified Materials Investigation In Unconventional FilingBy James Farrell

ForbesWhat Crimes Was Trump Charged With In Federal Documents Case? Here’s What To Know As DOJ Brings New ChargesBy Alison Durkee

ForbesJudge Postpones Trump’s Classified Documents Case IndefinitelyBy Antonio Pequeño IV

Read More






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