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The Trump Docket: Mar-a-Lago judge puts Jack Smith on the ropes with hearing schedule as ex-president receives reprieve

The Trump Docket: Mar-a-Lago judge puts Jack Smith on the ropes with hearing schedule as ex-president receives reprieve

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – JANUARY 20: Outgoing US President Donald Trump waves to supporters lined along on the route to his Mar-a-Lago estate on January 20, 2021 in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Donald Trump’s criminal trial in Florida, where he faces 40 felony charges related to his retention of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, is on hold indefinitely — a significant blow to special counsel Jack Smith — but that’s not all: in a few weeks, over an upcoming series of hearings, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has arranged to put Smith and his team to the test.

As Cannon laid out in an order this week, the Trump-appointed judge scheduled a new set of late July deadlines for Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) litigation to be filed where Trump and his lawyers will be able to specify which classified information they have obtained from discovery and then, she set an important three-day hearing for late June.

Those hearings will weigh arguments on whether Smith was rightfully appointed to prosecute Trump and whether Trump’s motion to dismiss the case altogether is warranted. They will get underway June 24 and are currently scheduled to continue through June 26.

Law&Crime takes a look at this and other developments in Trump’s cases in Florida, Georgia, Washington, D.C., and New York.

Related Coverage:

    NEW YORK

    CRIMINAL

    Stormy Daniels took the stand this week, laughing at her own jokes and often making cutting remarks as she told the jury excruciating details about her “brief” encounter with Trump in 2006 and then described how she came to take the $130,000 to keep quiet about her alleged tryst with him — and the threats she says she and her daughter experienced in the process.

    “My motivation wasn’t money, it was to get the story out,” Daniels reportedly said. “I was motivated out of fear and not money.”

    She also quickly filleted a would-be “gotcha” moment under cross-examination, saying “nobody” would ever want to “publicly” say they had sex with Trump.

    Jurors saw texts in court on Friday between Daniels’ manager and the National Enquirer’s editor where they discussed Trump and the porn star having sex.

    Prosecutors on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg‘s team scored when Daniels testified that she signed a nondisclosure agreement on Oct. 10, 2016, understanding Trump was the beneficiary of that agreement. That was just a month before that year’s election.

    Discussion of a “boo-boo” and the financial agreement between the Trump Organization and Michael Cohen following the payoff were also explained by Jeffrey McConney, a now-retired accountant who served as the company’s controller.

    Cohen is expected to testify on Monday. Trump’s defense was miffed Friday that Cohen goes on TikTok to discuss the trial and convinced Merchan to warn from the bench that Cohen should refrain from doing so.

    On Friday, Madeline Westerhout, a onetime assistant to Trump, finished her testimony. She first told jurors this week that the Access Hollywood tape stirred up concern among members of the Republican National Committee about whether Trump would need to be replaced “if it came to that.”

    “[T]here were conversations about how to … how it would be possible to replace him as the candidate if it came to that,” she reportedly said, according to the Daily Beast.

    But then on Friday, according to the New York Times, on redirect, Westerhout suggested that she didn’t have actual knowledge about the reaction to the tape since she wasn’t working for Trump at that time. She also admitted speaking to Trump’s defense lawyer Susan Necheles prior to testifying.

    The former aide told jurors about arranging a meeting in the Oval Office in 2017 where Trump and Cohen allegedly discussed the payment to Daniels. She did reportedly testify that Trump worried about his family being negatively impacted if the news of his affair with Stormy Daniels went public.

    Another one of Trump’s attempt to have the trial dismissed was also sharply rejected by Merchan.

    Meanwhile, With insults like “sleazebag” posted on social media, Trump brushed the thin line of his gag order, or may have stepped right over it and tempted a jail sanction. 

    New York Judge Juan Merchan warned Trump this week that jail was very likely the next step and last resort if Trump was found in contempt again. Merchan has dangled this over the ex-president’s head before, however. 

    The judge also rejected Trump’s “fishing expedition” request to subpoena Mark Pomerantz, a special assistant district attorney once privy to the probe.

    Trump Indictment

    Former President Donald Trump appears in court for his arraignment, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in New York. Trump surrendered to authorities ahead of his arraignment on criminal charges stemming from a hush money payment to a porn actor during his 2016 campaign. (Steven Hirsch/New York Post via AP, Pool)

    CIVIL

    A high-profile attorney who once had his license suspended appeared on television claiming — unprompted — that he tried to advise the judge who oversaw Trump’s civil fraud case, New York Judge Arthur Engoron, after a brief encounter in a courthouse hallway.

    FLORIDA

    CRIMINAL

    U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has indefinitely stayed the Mar-a-Lago case, a conclusion that has felt inevitable for weeks as the original May 20 trial date had already been tenuous.

    The trouble for special counsel Jack Smith grew acute when Trump’s lawyers filed a motion alleging he had “failed to maintain the integrity” of boxes picked up at Mar-a-Lago. Earlier in the week, Trump’s co-defendant and onetime butler Waltine “Walt” Nauta was rebuked sharply by Smith following Nauta’s claims that the FBI‘s search at Mar-a-Lago was unlawful. 

    Cannon, who hammered away at Smith in her orders this week, is a deeply controversial figure. The gloves really came off on television as analysts including attorney Ty Cobb and others blasted her: Cannon was dubbed intellectually incapable of handling the case and utterly unable to rule fairly,

    GEORGIA

    CRIMINAL

    The Georgia Court of Appeals dealt Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis a loss this week when it agreed to take up the former president’s challenge to her prosecutorial authority, all but certainly punting the trial until 2025.

    Should Trump be reelected come November, he wouldn’t be able to rid himself of this troublesome case since it is a state matter. But if he can manage to haul Willis off the prosecution on appeal, win the 2020 content, and then replace her with an ally, all bets on this indictment will be off.

    And for Harrison Floyd, Trump’s co-defendant and former leader of Black Voices for Trump who is accused of pressuring election worker Ruby Freeman to falsely declare fraud in the 2020 election, it was all about rejection by an appeals court.

    OF NOTE: Speaking of Ruby Freeman — frustrations in bankruptcy court are really bubbling over for the man who defamed her, Rudy Giuliani.

    Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis arrives during a hearing on the Georgia election interference case, Friday, March, 1, 2024, in Atlanta. The hearing is to determine whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis should be removed from the case because of a relationship with Nathan Wade, special prosecutor she hired in the election interference case against former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Alex Slitz, Pool)

    WASHINGTON, D.C. 

    SUPREME COURT

    No news from the high court on Trump’s immunity question. None either on a critical question for hundreds of Jan. 6 defendants in the case of Fischer v. United States. That case was argued on April 16. The immunity fight came on April 25. Patience will be a virtue for Supreme Court watchers because this is likely to drag into the summer.

    CRIMINAL

    The tangled web of the Georgia trial veering off course until 2025 and the Florida case stayed indefinitely for now, means that special counsel Jack Smith may prosecute the election subversion case by the summer. Of course, in this circular dynamic, that also depends on what the Supreme Court decides.

    CIVIL

    In a lawsuit spearheaded by the former head of the Jan. 6 committee Bennie Thompson and other current and former U.S. lawmakers and police who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6, a joint status report will be due by plaintiffs and Trump’s legal team by May 29. But U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta gave the parties until September to provide their immunity-related discovery.

    OF NOTE: The Securities and Exchange Commission this week disclosed that an independent auditing firm tapped by Trump Media has been charged with running a “sham audit mill.” Trump’s attempted return to the White House will be punctuated with lawsuits and a new one was added by his 2024 campaign this week when it and the Republican National Committee sued in Nevada seeking to stop the legal counting of ballots there up to four days after Election Day.

    Background: U.S. Supreme Court. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File). Inset left: FILE - Special counsel Jack Smith speaks to the media about an indictment of former President Donald Trump, Aug. 1, 2023, at an office of the Department of Justice in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File). Inset right: Former President Donald Trump attends the closing arguments in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York, Jan. 11, 2024. (Shannon Stapleton/Pool Photo via AP, File)

    Background: U.S. Supreme Court. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File). Inset left: FILE – Special counsel Jack Smith speaks to the media about an indictment of former President Donald Trump, Aug. 1, 2023, at an office of the Department of Justice in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File). Inset right: Former President Donald Trump attends the closing arguments in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York, Jan. 11, 2024. (Shannon Stapleton/Pool Photo via AP, File)

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    The post The Trump Docket: Mar-a-Lago judge puts Jack Smith on the ropes with hearing schedule as ex-president receives reprieve first appeared on Law & Crime.