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Jack Smith In Trump Trouble

Judge Cannon Seeks Clarity on Merrick Garland’s Oversight of Jack Smith

In the case involving Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents, Judge Aileen Cannon has raised questions regarding the extent of oversight that Attorney General Merrick Garland has over Special Counsel Jack Smith. The inquiry comes amidst ongoing legal proceedings, highlighting the independence of the special counsel.

Before posing her questions, Trump attorney Emil Bove pointed out Garland’s previous statement claiming he had “no coordination” with Smith concerning another criminal case against Trump, which alleges attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Smith’s team, led by Pearce, firmly refuted arguments suggesting Smith’s appointment was unlawful, emphasizing that his role was a legitimate exercise of Garland’s authority to organize the Justice Department. Pearce stressed that Smith’s appointment and actions complied with longstanding Justice Department rules and regulations.

These exchanges occurred at the start of a three-day series of intense hearings initiated by Judge Cannon, which will continue on Monday and Tuesday. Monday’s session will address another aspect of Trump’s challenge to Smith’s appointment, specifically the claim that Smith is being improperly funded by an indefinite Justice Department budget line item.

Judge Cannon’s deep dive into an issue largely dismissed by other courts has puzzled the legal community and drawn criticism for her handling of the sensitive case. Adding to the unusual nature of the proceedings, Cannon allowed three external experts — two supporting Trump’s position and one supporting Smith’s — to present their arguments for 30 minutes each, a rarity in criminal cases.

Judge Cannon previously alarmed legal experts in 2022 when she halted the Justice Department’s investigation into Trump’s retention of classified documents following an FBI search at Mar-a-Lago. This decision was later overturned by a conservative panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which allowed the investigation to proceed. The Supreme Court declined to hear Trump’s appeal.

After Smith charged Trump in June 2023, Cannon was randomly assigned to oversee the case. Her handling of pretrial matters has been slow, and she has postponed the trial date indefinitely.

Throughout the hearing, Trump’s attorneys argued that Smith’s operation should be disbanded. Bove suggested that maintaining the special counsel’s position amounted to a “shadow government.” Cannon responded, “That sounds very ominous,” seeking clarification. Bove explained that it was a “risk we are running” by allowing an official not confirmed by the Senate to undertake such actions.

Judge Cannon questioned attorneys from both sides, as well as the three outside experts, about their interpretations of various federal statutes and the historical use of special prosecutors. She specifically inquired about the relevance of the Supreme Court ruling that ordered President Richard Nixon to hand over tapes to a special prosecutor during the Watergate investigation.

Smith’s attorneys argued that this ruling, along with several appellate court decisions, established binding precedent that validated Smith’s appointment. Trump’s legal team disagreed.

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