It’s official. More than one thing actually. First, Judge “Loose” Cannon has as promised quickly rendered a decision on when the National Security (aka Classified Documents) trial of Trump down in Florida will start.
May, 2024. (A not so subtle F**K YOU! to voters, including GOP primary voters)
With this piece of news we now have a strong indication that she’s still in the tank for Trump. Now you might counter with the fact Trump’s lawyers asked for no date at all (which legally she couldn’t do – she had to set an actual date) but if she had to at least until not after the 2024 general election. So if she’s thumbed her nose at the primary voters by denying them information all but non-hard core Trumpists will care about it tells us something worse.
It tells us that’s she’s learned something from the way she got slapped down (twice) by the appellate court. She’s learned to stretch the hell out of the envelope without (probably) breaking through it. Mark my words, this won’t be the last time she issues a pre-trial ruling that’s favorable to Trump. But I have no doubt at all The Federalist Society has a small team set up in nice digs down there in judge Cannon’s town, complete with disposable cell phone that will allow them to send memos, copies of rulings she can issue etc. hard at work. I suppose Jack Smith’s team could appeal this trial date but it would be a heavy lift with only a small chance of success.
I still think they should.
I say that because it bugs the hell out of me that this has virtually always been talked about as a “Classified Documents” case. No, no NO! It’s a NATIONAL SECURITY CASE!!! Classified Documents, from the illegal taking of them from the WH, to retaining them and refusing to give them back, to LYING about (finally) having returned all of them are evidence. The real issue always has been the threat to National Security of all this classified information, some of it at the very highest levels of classification being outside of the control of the government. In a place where we KNOW foreign nationals including enemies of the United States have spent time trying to get information. There’s also the question of how widely Trump shared National Security information including these documents with people who had no business even being in close proximity to them (given they were unsecured) much less actually showing them stuff. Whether to play big-shot “Lookie what I have here” or to sell-trade it for his own gain.
As I said, this is an incredible breach of National Security and the extent of the damage will never fully be known. This situation DEMANDS a trial as soon as practical. And it’s damn well practical to have such trial well before May, 2024. We the people deserve a fair and speedy trial on something this important every bit as much as any criminal defendant (including Trump) has the right to one. And keep this in mind: For all the talk about mountains of written pages of evidence, and thousands of hours of video prosecutors have actually filed a pretty limited set of charges. Keep in mind the following:
1- Smith didn’t come anywhere near close to filing as big a case as he could have. 37 counts in the indictment might sound like a lot, but he’s not even charging Trump over ALL the 130 classified documents found in the August, 2022 search! Only thirty or so, with some additional charges.
2- Smith’s case will focus on the time frame between when Trump’s lawyer submitted that June, 2022 affidavit that all classified material had been returned – and the August 2022 search where the govt. found proof that the affidavit was false.
3 – Yes, the obstruction charges will have to go back a long time to cover all the attempts the govt. made to get all the illegally taken and retained classified documents back. However that too will be fairly simple. Memos between NARA and Trump/his lawyers and notes of phone conversations. Pretty simple. Nowhere near close to a “mountain” of evidence on that score.
4 – Most of what NARA spent so much time trying to get back had nothing to do with classified information. Trump took far more regular, routine Presidential papers the Presidential Records Act said he had to identify and “square” with NARA before leaving office. It WON’T be part of the trial! (So much for the “Gee Your Honor, there’s something like a “million pages” of stuff to go through… Sob.) Nope. The focus (again) will be on about thirty of 130 classified documents recovered in the August,2024 search of Mar A Lago. (And many hundreds, if not a thousand or more other classified documents will remain UN-prosecuted. All to make this a simple, limited/focused case that could be tried well before the circus of a Presidential Primary (and it’s a circus even in normal years) is fully underway.)
Got that? Smith didn’t come close to filing on ALL the classified documents Trump stole and spent over a year fighting to keep. Not even ALL the 130 found during that search a year ago. Nope, in the end there are some specific dates on video surveillance that are relevant. In all those “thousands of hours” that were seized there’s probably well less than fifty hours that matter, and even less (much less) that will be used by prosecutors in the trial. Same with documents. All manner of documents were taken illegally (the Presidential Records Act doesn’t say what Team Trump claims it does) add up to a lot. But again, while it’s all part of discovery only a relatively small amount are specific to the charges on which Trump will be tried. There are the roughly 130 documents found during the search of Mar A Lago last year after Team Trump gave the govt. a memo that everything that was supposed to have been returned had in fact been returned. Which as we all know was a big, fat LIE.
Smith’s case is limited to just those thirty classified documents in the large set found during the August 2022 search, and not a whole bunch more that Trump only reluctantly gave back after over a year of fighting. So there’s that. Then you have transcripts of Grand Jury testimony, but again most of it will be limited to the summer of 2024 time frame. And you have the filings back and forth between NARA and Team Trump from the time they knew he’d taken stuff he wasn’t supposed to have taken. I’d be shocked if that all totaled up to even six figures worth of pages of evidence, and again what matters is what Smith’s team intends to use at trial. Which won’t even be all of that! Finally, when he started handing over discovery (right away after the arraignment and months before would normally have been the case) Smith has already provided the defense the specific items/evidence that will be introduced as evidence at trial.
So what’s happened is Smith knew damn well what the defense would want. And rather than go through a set of court hearings basically said “Ok guys. Here. I know you want EVERYTHING whether it’s related to the charges in the indictment or not. Fine. But I’m a fair guy so right now I’ll tell you, THIS is what we will use at trial. Just this part of all that truckload of evidence. It’s all marked for you to save you time. You’re welcome by the way.” It wasn’t just a case of poking holes in the defense’s sails, it was the equivalent of ripping down the sails and saying (Forget about sails, here’s a brand new, shiny MOTOR to get you where you need to go. And fast.”
The one part of discovery that hasn’t been made fully available is those 130 classified documents, but the details are being worked out. Also, unless I’m mistaken even those have been separated out for the defense. Less than a week after being given the case judge Cannon gave Trump’s lawyers four days to submit their paperwork for security clearances. Turns out only a couple have done so (and been granted interim clearances so they can get to work) but the rest have dragged their feet. Trump sure as hell shouldn’t be rewarded for that by granting a trial date so far into the future! (Note: Another indication that Cannon is in the tank for Trump is that she hasn’t so much as verbally admonished Trump lawyers who’ve yet to submit their applications for security clearance.)
As for the reasonable to be concerned about issues of how all this can be used in court, the plain fact is we’ve had a number of trials of people where classified, even the most highly classified information would have to be presented in court. Procedures on how to do so and protect National Security got worked out long ago. So that “complexity” we are now hearing about is a f**king red-herring. Hell, when you get down to it does a jury really need to see any part of a document other than a highly redacted page with the freaking big block letters at the top of the pages noting the level of classification?
In the end this trial IS in fact fairly simple and straightforward just as legal pundits kept saying until recently. That brings me to my last point. I posted an article yesterday about why those in the executive suites and even boardrooms of news outlets DON’T want Trump’s Florida trial to start. I noted the change in how news show anchors, the “talent” and especially their legal pundits that are regular (and paid) contributors underwent a shift in tone recently. From “this is a simple and straightforward case that can be concluded before the voting (primary) gets rolling” to “this is a COMPLEX case, especially on the issue of using classified documents as evidence.”
Well, while browsing my news online I saw the “breaking headline” and changed the channel from golf to MSNBC in time to catch Joe Scarborough (with Mika nodding and agreeing) how this was all sooooooo complex that next May was pretty reasonable, but even THAT might no be long enough. I’ve had that channel on since and it’s more of the same. Joyce Vance for example said pretty much the same thing albeit in a more measured way. If this is how it’s being played on MSNBC I shudder at how cray the talk is on other outlets. I swear, by next week newsies and pundits will be talking about this case like it being more complex than quantum physics!
Don’t tell me for ONE second that word didn’t get passed down from the top to “frame” the case (or perhaps reframe is more accurate) as it’s now being talked about. There is no good reason, NONE this trial can’t start in December as the prosecution requested. Or at the latest then in January. NONE. But even with a Trump friendly jury pool he is likely to be convicted and for all his (and GOPer’s) bluster that would be the end of Trump’s candidacy. No more repeat of the riches that flowed into news outlets coffers like in 2016. No fat orange Trump, no fake golden egg.
Now the message is going to be how even May 2024 will be tough given how “YUGELY” complex this case is and that the trial date will slip. Past the general election! It’s already started. Vance talked about how “next to impossible” it would be for a federal judge to find (on short notice) a few weeks free on their calendar. Lest we forget, Judge Cannon is in a backwater. In her time on the bench she’s presided over a grand total of FOUR cases that have actually gone to trial. Somehow I think this one judge operation that deals with small potatoes can find a way to clear not just a few weeks, but twice that and on short notice!
My point though is that the orders have been handed down. “Talent”, the news show hosts have been reminded of whenever their contract will be up for renewal. Pundits, the guest have been told “nice little gig you’ve got with us – it would be a shame if the money we pay you stopped showing up in your bank account!”
As I said at the end of the article I linked to, tell me I’m wrong!
I’ll say it now. This trial isn’t going to start before next year’s general election. Champagne corks aren’t just popping at Trump’s Bedminster NJ club, they’re also popping in news honcho’s offices too! They get to have Trump doing his thing again! Hey, from their ivory towers what’s still more incalculable damage to our country when compared to another round of the riches they raked in in 2016?
At this point I think our only hope is that Smith has kept a set of Bedminster indictments in his pocket for just this contingency. Dare we hope that’s the case?