I love it when a plan comes together. We haven’t even had the preliminary hearing yet, and already Special Counsel Jack Smith is showing that he has more courtroom strategic brains for breakfast than Judge Cannon and the entire Trump legal team have had since conception.
During Trump’s arraignment on Tuesday, Judge Aileen Cannon was noticeably absent, which means that things went smoothly, but still started media conjecture with her status in the case. But then an event in the hearing occurred that took all of the attention off of Cannon, and put it firmly on Jack Smith instead.
Towards the end of the hearing, the judge subbing for Cannon asked the lead prosecutor what kind of bond restrictions the government wanted to impose. To which the prosecutor replied, None, Your Honor. Surprised, the judge persisted, You’re not requesting a cash bail requirement? No, Your Honor. You’re not requesting that the defendant turn over his passports? No, Your Honor. You don’t want to impose any travel restrictions? No, Your Honor. You don’t want to impose any restrictions on the defendant talking to prospective witnesses? No, Your Honor.
The shocked judge went ahead and put in place an order barring Trump from communicating with any potential witnesses or his co-defendant. But it was too late, the media was already going ape sh*t. Why was Smith treating Trump like the rich brat at his birthday party? Why didn’t they hit him with the normal travel restrictions, pestering him with having to clear campaign travel through the judge? Why didn’t they at least muzzle him from trying to coerce potential witnesses on their testimony?
Oh ye of little faith. Here’s why. How often have I said it? If you take a shot at the King, it had better not miss. And today The New York Times is reporting that it’s because Smith has his eye trained solely on pulling off a head shot.
According to The Times, Smith is playing a long game, or more appropriately in this case, a short game. Trump’s defense plan is to try to obstruct and delay everything until the trial bumps up against the 2024 general election campaign. And it’s never too early to start.
Want cash bond? Trump will ask for a hearing in order to argue that with his notoriety, personal recognizance should be sufficient. A delay. Hit Trump with travel restrictions? Another hearing to complain that Trump is running for President, and clearing his travel would be an undue hardship. Bar Trump from speaking to witnesses? Another hearing on First Amendment rights. Trump is running for President, can the government claim that something he says in a campaign speech is a direct reference to a witness? Smith made the tactical decision to avoid all those hearings and delays. You’re not going to shut Trump up anyway, so let it go.
Now let’s introduce Judge Cannon into the equation. And again, I am making no judgements on her previous ruling missteps. Especially since yesterday she issued her first ruling from the bench in the trial. And that ruling was for the Trump defense to complete their Security Clearance Applications, and giving them until Tuesday to turn them in. Not some random Tuesday in September, next Tuesday. Maybe judge Cannon missed Tuesdays hearing because she was brushing up on the rules for the Rocket Docket.
But today Jack Smith pulled a move that I can only describe inspired. Smith sent a Protective Order to Judge Cannon, stating that the prosecution was now prepared to release all non classified material to the defense under the Rules of Discovery. Smith requested that Judge Cannon issue an order prohibiting the dissemination of any information in the files to the public by the defense. The stated reason for the order was the fact that there are still multiple active investigations under way, and premature disclosure could screw them up.
This is a master class in legal tactics. Normally the way it goes, the indictments are unsealed, and the arraignment is held within 48 hours. During the arraignment the judge names a date for the preliminary hearing. And at the preliminary hearing, the judge opens the discovery window. The judge asks the prosecution how much sh*t they’re dumping on the defense, and then the defense requests a time window to go through the documents. Trump is counting on expanding that window as much as possible to delay the trial.
Look, Smith isn’t just running circles around Trump’s defense team, he’s running them around Judge Cannon too. Trump’s defense team wants endless delays and hearings. Smith just deprived them of that oxygen by not giving them any reasons to ask foe hearings on Trump’s bail conditions. And now, Judge Cannon hasn’t even set the preliminary hearing date to open discovery, and Smith is already handing over all of his non classified material for the Trump team to go through. Which makes it harder for the Trump team, 6-8 weeks from now at the preliminary hearing, to ask for 4-6 months for discovery when they’ve already 90% of the stuff for 6-8 weeks.
This isn’t Jack Smith’s first ride at this rodeo. And if Judge Cannon isn’t quite sure how to run a rocket Docket, then Smith will be right there to keep her on the rails. When I mentally envision the Trump defense team, I can only see a bunch of goofs in dumpy suits, staring out at a swamp with a sign that says, Here there be tygers. Never a dull moment.