Judge Cannon Sets Private Hearing With Donald Trump’s Attorneys


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

New court documents reveal that Judge Aileen Cannon will meet with the attorneys for former President Donald Trump on February 12.

The former president is on trial for allegedly mishandling classified documents found at his Palm Beach home, Mar-a-Lago, before federal judge Cannon in Florida. The Department of Justice and Special Counsel Jack Smith filed the lawsuit. On January 31, Cannon’s lawyers held a hearing to go over the specifics of the case, Newsweek noted.

There are 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information against Trump and one count each of conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding, corruptly concealing, hiding a document in a federal investigation, concealing a scheme to conceal, and making false statements and representations.

Accusing the charges of being politically motivated, Trump has entered a not-guilty plea to all of them.

There will be an “ex parte” hearing on February 12 regarding motions filed by the DOJ in December under the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA). Government attorneys reportedly presented Cannon with their case last week, arguing that Trump and his two co-defendants, Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, should not have access to certain classified materials.


Using the CIPA statute, the government can contend that withholding classified evidence from a defendant would avert the possible disclosure of confidential government data. The Department of Justice’s website states that this “applies both when the government intends to use classified information in its case-in-chief as well as when the defendant seeks to use classified information in his or her defense.”

On February 12, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Cannon will hear arguments from Trump’s defense attorney. Nauta and Carlos de Oliveira might not be present. The defense will not be present when the court hears arguments from the special counsel from 3 to 5 p.m.

“Defense counsel shall be prepared to discuss their defense theories of the case in detail and how any classified information might be relevant or helpful to the defense,” per the new filing on Monday in the Southern District of Florida.

The next day, February 13, is being reserved if necessary for additional discussions.

“Cannon is drawing within the proverbial lines of what CIPA permits, as the statute does afford discretion to hear ex parte from the defense, but it is not the norm for judges to do so,” attorney Bradley Moss told Newsweek via email.

“What matters more than the process she is affording Mr. Trump is the substance of her rulings. If, as I expect, she rules in favor of the government, all Trump will have won is a time delay.”

Smith filed a 67-page document last Friday, rejecting the motion by Trump and co-defendants for additional discovery.

“The defendants’ insinuations have scant factual or legal relevance to their discovery requests, but they should not stand uncorrected,” the prosecution motion said, in reference to Trump’s claims about the case being politically motivated.

Earlier this month, four House Republicans sent a letter to Smith and contested his authority to bring charges against Trump.

Reps. Eric Burlison (R-MO), Michael Cloud (R-TX), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) co-signed the letter, which claims that Smith’s office and his investigation into Trump have not received the proper congressional oversight.

Signatories to the letter request that Smith furnish them with “all documents and communications concerning your authority” to impanel grand juries in the two federal court districts in which he is prosecuting the former president, along with Smith’s authority to have those grand juries return indictments, his authority to grant immunity in exchange for testimony, and documents about DOJ oversight.

“We respectfully request a response from you on or before 1 p.m. [on] February 9, 2024,” Burlison, Cloud, Greene, and Luna wrote.

Conservatives contend that Smith is a private citizen and lacks the constitutional authority to prosecute Trump because he was not formally appointed by the U.S. president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

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Former Reagan administration attorney general Ed Meese argued last month in an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief submitted to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals that Smith’s appointment was improper and that, as a result, his prosecution of Trump is void.

Meese argued that the statutory authority that Attorney General Merrick Garland claimed did not permit him to appoint Smith as special counsel.

Since the U.S. Senate has not confirmed three special counsel appointments, some have argued that the D.C. Circuit is unlikely to consider that argument seriously.


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