I’ve been stewing on this all day and evening and it’s really bugging the hell out of me.
Look, we’ve all been justifiably worried about Judge Aileen LOOSE Cannon having learned enough from her beat downs from the appellate court last year to not be quite so blatant in her efforts to help Trump beat the rap in his National Security Case. (Dammit! It’s way more than “classified documents” – this is National Security!) For me at least, ignoring a window that was available in Dec. and setting an initial date for next freaking MAY was a bad sign. I get why Jack Smith filed the charges where he did, but with a one in four chance it would all wind up in front of Cannon wasn’t what he wanted I’m sure.
And you will NEVER, EVER convince me that it was pure random luck that despite fair odds that sure enough Cannon got the case. Well, that’s done and there’s likely nothing that will change that.
What ticks me off is that while in early June Trump showed up for arraignment with Diet Coke valet Walt Nauta for arraignment Trump was all set. He had his lawyer who will actually be running his defense, AND a lawyer specifically admitted to the Bar to practice in the southern District of Florida (a requirement they have – not every jurisdiction does) to specifically handle the actual arraignment and set the case over for trial. Oh, and get a judge assigned. Problem was, there was no one from the southern District present to represent Nauta! Oh, his REAL lawyer (paid for by Trump) was there but he couldn’t do jack, so Nauta’s arraignment was postponed.
When he came back on the assigned date, there was a bunch of “golly gee your honor we just haven’t been able to find anyone to represent Mr. Nauta for this simple, fifteen minute process.” So that judge who’d already expressed a bit of irritation gave him one more chance. Nauta/his main lawyer decided not to push their luck and finally in July had someone present to take care of the short, pro forma process of Nauta entering his Not Guilty plea and that was that.
It was as EVERYONE knows classic Trump delaying bullsh*t. Ted Baxter from the Mary Tyler Moore show would have realized it! But they got away with it. Cannon, not wanting to give Smith an excuse to appeal set a status hearing for Aug. 25. She also made it clear folks had better show up and I think on this one she meant it. Like I said, she doesn’t want Smith to have a reason to head off and go over her head and even Trump’s main lawyer realizes the position she’s in. It’s not like there won’t be plenty of chance to puch that May trial date a few months. Into that window where the DOJ will shut down the prosecution to avoid seeming political.
Then Smith added a third defendant. Mar A Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira who is as devoted to Trump as Nauta. This seemed to come out of the blue and just as I knew they would (I’ve written how journalists got the memo from their bosses and changed their tune on how what really is a straightforward case that could be tried in Dec. was incredibly complex and that even next May was wishful thinking) started talking about how now there was no way this case would go to trial before the election. Just as Trump wanted.
But Trump is Trump. His lawyers might have told him it was a bad idea but he’s the boss and he decided to play the “can’t find local counsel for the arraignment” game, and his lawyers dutifully let Judge Cannon know that given the delay in even getting De Oliveira arraigned that might not happen before her next hearing was scheduled. So THAT would have to be pushed back. So far she doesn’t seem moved, but we’ll see.
In the meantime we can expect the same goddam games they played with Nauta. De Oliveira will show up with his “real” lawyer, and again to the we’re so sorry (REALLY!) your honor but we can’t find a single member of the Bar in this jurisdiction to take an hour out of their day (gotta add in travel time to and from the court) to handle this simple fifteen minute process of arraignment. Maybe you can give us another month?” routine.
This new guy should even have been given a pass to come back. He could have and SHOULD have been arraigned today. Given what happened with Natua I knew and so did everyone else what would happen. And you know what? So did that freaking judge! There’s a simple process that gets used all the time there. The judge should have been ready to implement it.
For those who don’t know, an arraignment is almost always a quick process. The case is called, the lawyers for both prosecution and defense stand at their respective tables and the defendant(s) stands with his/her lawyer(s). Either side will almost always ask for waiving formal reading of the entire indictment and almost always the other side will agree and the judge says fine. The judge will ask the lawyers to identify themselves and who they represent, and if they haven’t done so already to “file their appearance” with the clerk. (this is paperwork stating they are qualified to both practice law in that court and on who’s behalf they are acting in this particular case). The judge, after making sure those details have been taken care of asks for a plea. Almost always it’s Not Guilty and the judge states for the record the defendant’s plea, then orders the case set over for trial and that the system assign a trial judge to take over from there. Then bangs the gavel and says “next case.”
The whole thing takes ten to fifteen minutes tops most of the time. And that long only if one side or the other has any initial motions, such as the Protective Order the govt. asked for to prevent De Oliveira and his lawyers from discussing the case outside strict terms, and the defense arguing back and filing a motion of it’s own to delay things. This stuff gets disposed of quickly and like I said even when there’s serious back & forth even twenty minutes is a stretch.
THAT is why an public defender can be brought in to handle an arraignment, even when the defendant doesn’t already have a main lawyer who will be the actual person running the defense! So judges will, right on the spot summon a public defender and in less than an hour someone is there to handle the matter.
In THIS case, knowing what would happen any judge with half a brain would have literally had a public defender sitting in the gallery. And when the games began called them up inside the railing and formally assign them to handle the arraignment. Grant a ten or fifteen minute recess even if the main defense lawyer pitched a fit, but that would be it. And De Oliveira would have been arraigned today and that would have been that.
i could even script it all out for you but won’t bother. What I will say is that when round two happens the same goddam game Team Trump played with Nauta will get tried again.
There shouldn’t even be a round 2.
But there is, and what it tells me is that Cannon isn’t the only judge down there sympathetic to Trump. That includes the Chief Judge by the way. HE should have made sure what happened today didn’t happen. If journalists would do their jobs they’d be hounding that Chief Judge over how Team Trump could get away with this stunt today after what happened with Nauta. Not that the bosses would let them air/print it. Nope, as I’ve said they want, they CRAVE an election with Trump on the GOP ticket. For the ratings and the money those ratings would generate.
Here’s my prediction. Today there were comments from legal talking head about how common it was for federal defendants down there to get arrested with no or little warning and show up in court without a lawyer. And the judge pausing arraignment for a bit to get a public defender into court to handle what as I’ve noted is a simple, ROUTINE process.
How much do you want to bet we won’t be hearing any of that come tomorrow? Nope. Just like we went from a couple of weeks of “this is a straightforward case that can be handled in December, or January at the latest” to a couple of weeks after Trump was arraigned to a “this is an INCREDIBLY COMPLEX case and even next May is unlikely” narrative we will instead start hearing about how difficult is is for poor Mr. De Oliveira to get local counsel. Even for a process a first year law student would be able to handle.
The whole thing makes me sick. And ANGRY!