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Motions Slow Trump Florida Case        06/21 06:04


   FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) -- The federal judge presiding over the classified 
documents case against former President Donald Trump is hearing arguments 
Friday on a long-shot defense effort to get the indictment thrown out based on 
the claim that the prosecutor who brought the charges was illegally appointed.

   The arguments over the legality of special counsel Jack Smith's appointment 
kick off a three-day hearing that is set to continue next week and bring 
further delays to a criminal case that had been scheduled for trial last month 
but has been snarled by a pileup of unresolved legal disputes. The motion 
questioning Smith's selection and funding by the Justice Department is one of 
multiple challenges to the indictment the defense has raised, so far 
unsuccessfully, in the year since the charges were brought.

   Even as Smith's team looks to press forward on a prosecution seen by many 
legal experts as the most straightforward and clear-cut of the four 
prosecutions against Trump, Friday's arguments before U.S. District Judge 
Aileen Cannon won't involve discussion of the allegations against the former 
president. They'll center instead on decades-old regulations governing the 
appointment of Justice Department special counsels like Smith, reflecting the 
judge's continued willingness to entertain defense arguments that prosecutors 
say are meritless, contributing to the indefinite cancelation of a trial date.

   Cannon, a Trump appointee, had exasperated prosecutors even before the June 
2023 indictment by granting a Trump request to have an independent arbiter 
review the classified documents taken from Mar-a-Lago -- an order that was 
overturned by a unanimous federal appeals panel.

   Since then, she has been intensely scrutinized over her handling of the 
case, including for taking months to issue rulings and for scheduling hearings 
on legally specious claims -- all of which have combined to make a trial before 
the November presidential election a virtual impossibility. She was rebuked in 
March by prosecutors after she asked both sides to formulate jury instructions 
and to respond to a premise of the case that Smith's team called "fundamentally 

   The New York Times, citing two anonymous sources, reported Thursday that two 
judges -- including the chief federal judge in the southern district of Florida 
-- urged Cannon to step aside from the case after she was assigned to it.

   The hearing is unfolding just weeks after Trump was convicted in a separate 
state case in New York of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money 
payment to a porn actor who has said she had sex with him. Meanwhile, the 
Supreme Court is set to issue a landmark opinion on whether Trump is immune 
from prosecution for acts he took in office or he can be be prosecuted by 
Smith's team on charges that he schemed to overturn the results of the 2020 
presidential election.

   At issue in Friday's hearing is a Trump team claim that Smith was illegally 
appointed in November 2022 by Attorney General Merrick Garland because he was 
not first approved by Congress and because the special counsel office that he 
was assigned to lead was not also created by Congress.

   Smith's team has said Garland was fully empowered as the head of the Justice 
Department to make the appointment and to delegate prosecutorial decisions to 
him. Prosecutors also note that courts have upheld prior appointments of 
special counsels, including Robert Mueller by Trump's Justice Department.

   On the agenda for next week are arguments over a limited gag order that 
prosecutors have requested to bar Trump from comments they fear could endanger 
the safety of FBI agents and other law enforcement officials involved in the 

   The restrictions were sought after Trump falsely claimed the agents who 
searched his Mar-a-Lago estate for classified documents in August 2022 were 
prepared to kill him even though he was citing boilerplate language from 
standard FBI policy about use of force during the execution of search warrants. 
The FBI had intentionally selected a day for the search when it knew Trump and 
his family would be out of town.

   Trump's lawyers have said any speech restrictions would infringe on his free 
speech rights. Cannon initially rejected the request on technical grounds, 
saying prosecutors had not sufficiently conferred with defense lawyers before 
seeking the gag restrictions. But prosecutors subsequently renewed the request.

   Another issue set to be discussed next week is a defense request to exclude 
from the case evidence seized by the FBI during the Mar-a-Lago search, and to 
dismiss the indictment because of evidence it includes that came from former 
members of Trump's defense team.

   Though attorney-client privilege protects defense lawyers from being forced 
to testify about their confidential conversations with clients, prosecutors can 
get around that shield if they can establish that the lawyer's legal services 
are being used to further a crime.

   That's what happened last year in the classified documents investigation, 
with prosecutors in their indictment repeatedly citing details of conversations 
Trump had with M. Evan Corcoran, an attorney who represented the former 
president during the investigation and who was forced by a judge to appear 
before the grand jury investigating Trump .

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