05/18/2024

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Left: Special Counsel Jack Smith. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)/Center: In this image from video provided by the U.S. Senate, Aileen M. Cannon speaks remotely during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight nomination hearing to be U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on July 29, 2020./Right: Donald Trump speaks with supporters at the Westside Conservative Breakfast, June 1, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Mar-a-Lago judge sets new hearing over ‘grand jury matters’ and materials in ongoing sealing and redaction battles that could lead to release of long-secret Trump motions

Left: Special Counsel Jack Smith. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File); Center: Aileen M. Cannon speaks remotely during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing (U.S. Senate); Right: Donald Trump speaks with supporters at the Westside Conservative Breakfast, June 1, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File).

The judge overseeing the Mar-a-Lago documents case has scheduled a hearing and status conference over several issues related to recent, sealed government filings as well as two long-sealed defense filings.

In a paperless order released late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon set aside 90 minutes at 2 p.m. on May 8, exactly one week from today, “to discuss grand jury matters.”

“To the extent any non-parties to this proceeding have not yet had an opportunity to appear and be heard on the disclosure petition now transferred to this Court, the parties shall come prepared to discuss any additional procedures required,” the order reads.

Notably, the defense is not required to take part in the hearing.

Related Coverage:

    The terse order will address “specific grand jury material implicated in this proceeding in light of the Special Counsel’s sealed status report” as well as “updates to pending disclosure proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.” The court explains that the hearing concerns three specific documents filed under seal, at least one — and presumably all — of which were filed by the government.

    The court offered a bit more clarity about other issues slated to come up during next week’s hearing — in reference to defense motions.

    The parties will also, once again, address an ever-present theme in the pretrial dynamics of the southern Florida case: what information in the case can be filed publicly on the federal docket.

    According to Cannon’s order, the discussion will deal with in-progress arguments over sealing and redaction issues “related to grand jury material attached to or quoted in” Trump’s motion to dismiss for prosecutorial misconduct resulting in due process violations and motion for relief related to the Mar-a-Lago raid and the unlawful piercing of attorney-client privilege, both of which were filed non-publicly with the court in late February.

    The motion to dismiss was filed — along with four other motions to dismiss filed publicly — on Feb. 22 and alleges the government engaged in pre-indictment delay and grand jury abuses.

    The motion seeking relief over the raid of the former president’s Palm Beach-based quasi-home-and-business alleges the government unlawfully obtained evidence in violation of the attorney-client privilege and seeks either suppression of such evidence or a dismissal of the superseding indictment due to alleged prejudice, according to a February report by NBC News reporter Katherine Doyle.

    Those two motions likely contain a significant amount of information the government would rather not be made public.

    Depending on the arguments — which appear mostly keyed toward airing and/or understanding the government’s position — those defense motions could be released sooner rather than later.

    Special counsel Jack Smith has fought vociferously to keep certain information in the case under lock and key. Cannon has been heavily criticized by the prosecution in numerous filings — and by a steady stream of legal and political pundits in the media — for tentative decisions that allowed publishing witnesses’ names.

    More Law&Crime coverage: ‘Safety and privacy are paramount’: Jack Smith implores Mar-a-Lago judge to redact defense motions because they contain witness names and sealed grand jury information

    Earlier this month, Cannon begrudgingly reversed herself.

    In an order heaping scorn on the government’s command of the law, the judge agreed to keep secret the names of potential government witnesses. And, while managing to make her displeasure palpable in her order that largely granted the government’s requests, as well as a few defense requests, Cannon set the stage for potentially revisiting the issue in the future — should the matter ever come up and then come down differently in the relevant federal court of appeals.

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