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Judge Issues First Big Decision in Trump Mar-a-Lago Docs Case

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon issued her first big decision on Thursday afternoon in the case brought against him by Special Counsel Jack Smith, who Biden’s Department of Justice appointed.

Cannon declared in a brief order that all attorneys in the case — as well as Trump’s longtime valet, Walt Nauta, who is charged alongside him as an alleged co-conspirator — are required to contact the DOJ about obtaining security clearances.

“Cannon ordered the attorneys to file a ‘notice of compliance’ by June 20, a relatively rapid pace. Both Trump and Nauta are looking to fill out their legal teams in the coming days. Trump, in particular, has suffered setbacks as several of his veteran lawyers quit the case in the leadup to his indictment, the result of internal turmoil that has spilled into public view,” Politico reported.

“There are no additional dates set yet in the case against Trump, whose historic arraignment was completed on Tuesday in Miami. Nauta’s arraignment was postponed until June 27 because he did not yet have a lawyer who is a member of the bar in the federal court in south Florida,” the outlet added.

Guardian reporter Hugo Lowell tweeted: “New on Trump Mar-a-Lago docket: US judge Aileen Cannon orders defense counsel to contact DOJ to expedite security clearance process on or before June 16 and file compliance notice by June 20. Cannon does not appear to be recusing this case.”

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Earlier this week, a former Trump criminal defense attorney is arguing that the investigation into Trump over alleged mishandling of classified documents may not even go to trial.

During an interview on Fox News, Timothy Parlatore — who served as a criminal defense attorney for Trump until last month — spoke with host Laura Ingraham about Trump appearing in Miami on Tuesday for his arraignment in the case brought against him by Smith, who Biden’s Department of Justice appointed.

Trump pleaded “not guilty” in federal court. If he is found guilty on all counts, Trump — who is President Joe Biden’s chief rival in next year’s presidential election — could face decades in prison.

Parlatore argued he believes there are fundamental flaws with the case, particularly over the grand jury process and breaches of attorney-client privilege. Parlatore said he believes this could result in the entire case being thrown out.

Parlatore said Trump’s attorneys should “attack the conduct of the entire investigation and show through death by a thousand cuts why this entire investigation is irreparably tainted by government misconduct,” adding: “The case, therefore, should be dismissed or, at a minimum, the prosecutor should be disqualified.”

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Earlier this week, a concerning report emerged that Smith may execute a “backup plan” if his case in Florida against Trump does not stick.

NYU Law Professors Ryan Goodman and Andrew Weissmann published an op-ed in The Atlantic, where they speculate that if the classified documents case against Trump in Florida falls through, Smith could pursue charges of “dissemination of classified documents” in the state of New Jersey in an entirely separate indictment.

“Smith appears to have taken a cautious, narrow approach. Even though the indictment describes alleged dissemination and disclosure of national-security secrets, the indictment did not charge Trump with those offenses,” they write. “One possible explanation for his decision: venue. The Constitution requires prosecutors to bring charges in the location—or venue—where the alleged criminal conduct took place. Justice Department prosecutors could not necessarily bring charges against Trump in Miami for alleged criminal conduct that occurred in another state, in this case New Jersey. But the absence of such charges in the indictment raises the intriguing possibility of another indictment to come, in a jurisdiction, no less, with a pool of jurors and judges more favorable to the government’s case against Trump,” the authors wrote in the report.

The report goes on to speculate that if the Florida judge were to delay the case proceedings after the 2024 presidential election, Smith could move ahead with charges in New Jersey — a Democrat stronghold that would likely not be favorable to Trump.

The charges “include willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, corruptly concealing a document or record, concealing a document in a federal investigation, a scheme to conceal, and false statements and representations,” ABC News reported.

“Maximum sentences for the respective charges, per their statutes, range from five up to 20 years, although any eventual sentence should Trump be convicted would likely be much lower,” the outlet added.

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