I don’t like your tone: Judge, prosecutors clash in Trump documents case | US News

Trump ballot put to the test

Aileen Cannon again chided one of the special counsel’s lawyers: Could this become a problem for their case?

Thu June 27, 2024 8:54 a.m. EDT

On the record: Judge Cannon v. David Harbach

Tense interactions between Judge Aileen Cannon and special prosecutors in the Donald Trump case over the retention of classified documents came to a head this week when she again chastised one of the lead prosecutors on Monday for his tone.

We’ve talked for months about Cannon’s hostility toward special prosecutors, but the recent series of hearings has also made clear how often they shoot themselves in the foot, too.

Cannon is perhaps one of the easiest judges to read during hearings, as she tends to ask questions only when she is skeptical of a position being advanced, whether by Trump’s lawyers or by the prosecutors.

But David Harbach, one of the top special prosecutors, either found it difficult to understand Cannon due to his growing frustration with the documents affair, became more interested in going after Cannon, or didn’t care. does not realize that he is engaging in self-sabotage. .

The strained nature of their relationship does not appear to have led Cannon to make decisions to punish his behavior. But that rocky relationship could become a bigger problem for the special prosecutor’s team as the case moves forward.

If Cannon continues to be skeptical of prosecutors — she has a strained relationship with Deputy Special Counsel Jay Bratt as well as Harbach — that could become a clear disadvantage for the special prosecutor if the case goes to trial. Judges are also human.

And while the tense interactions between Cannon and Harbach are difficult to describe in reporting because they are subtle, they exploded into the open this week when she berated Harbach — and when Harbach was inexplicably unable to pull off a victory on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s hearing focused on Trump’s motion to throw out evidence seized by the FBI during the August 2022 Mar-a-Lago raid, including 32 classified documents Trump was accused of illegally retaining after leaving the White House.

By the end of the hearing, it was clear that Cannon would deny Trump’s motion. The prosecutors had their victory. But Harbach couldn’t help himself.

Harbach told Cannon he had to make an important point and assured him it would be brief. He then ran to the lectern and, to everyone’s amazement, complained that Trump’s lawyers were trying to “hijack” the hearings by raising tangential motions. “It’s not fair,” he protested.

Cannon seemed to look at him with disdain because he continued to argue. “There’s no hijacking going on,” Cannon retorted, interrupting him and telling him the hearing was about to end.

Fortunately for the special prosecutor’s team, Cannon seems to have a prosecutor she gets along well with: Deputy Special Counsel James Pearce.

At Friday’s hearing, as Cannon weighed a separate motion by Trump to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that the special prosecutor was illegally appointed, she almost smiled when Pearce argued that the appointment of A special prosecutor was under the jurisdiction of US Attorney General Merrick Garland. .

Sidebar: Trump immunity decision looming

The Washington Supreme Court. Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA

Although the classified documents case certainly won’t go to trial anytime soon, the special counsel team may soon determine whether it should be prepared to pursue its other criminal case against Trump, regarding his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 elections, for a jury before November.

The US Supreme Court has scheduled several more days to issue its decisions, including on the extent of Trump’s immunity from prosecution. The justices are expected to rule that Trump has some immunity for “official acts,” but the question is how they will separate that from private conduct.

Depending on how the Supreme Court sends the case back to a lower court — whether it goes before U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan or the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — and what test it asks of the court Before applying, there is a small window for a trial to begin at the end of September.

At least that’s what I hear from my sources at the Justice Department.

In other news

Juan Merchan and Donald Trump in this composite photo. Composite: AP, Getty Images

Judge Juan Merchan, the New York judge who presided over Trump’s secret trial, partially lifted the silence that has hung over the former president since he was convicted of accounting fraud last month.

Under the revised order, Trump is now free to criticize trial witnesses, including Stormy Daniels and his former lawyer Michael Cohen, but must maintain restrictions on his comments about individual prosecutors and others involved in the affair.

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