Legal Expert Says Jack Smith's Mistake Came Back To Bite Him In The A$$

By Jennifer Wentworth | Wednesday, 29 May 2024 03:00 PM
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Image Credit : Photo by NJ.com

In the case of former President Donald Trump's indictment over classified documents, special counsel Jack Smith's decision to charge Trump in Florida rather than Washington, D.C., has been deemed a "mistake" by a legal expert.

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe has suggested that this decision could potentially be detrimental to the federal prosecutor's case due to the actions of Aileen Cannon, the Florida judge presiding over the case.

Cannon, a Trump nominee, has been the subject of criticism for her rulings during the proceedings, which some experts believe could favor the former president. Her recent decision to indefinitely delay the federal trial until all legal arguments and hearings have been resolved implies that the trial is unlikely to occur before the 2024 presidential election.

Tribe has argued that the complications arising from Cannon's involvement could have been circumvented had Smith chosen to charge Trump in D.C. instead of Florida. "Of course charging this case in Florida rather than DC was a mistake. Many of us argued that at the time, publicly and privately," Tribe stated on X, formerly known as Twitter. He added, "Fears of a fight over venue were understandable but never justified the risk Smith took that he'd draw a judge like Cannon."

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The postponement of the federal classified documents case could be a significant advantage for Trump. If he emerges victorious in the 2024 presidential race against incumbent President Joe Biden, he could potentially instruct the Department of Justice to dismiss the charges upon assuming office.

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Smith's office declined to comment when approached. Last year, it was speculated that Smith might charge Trump in Washington, D.C., where the Department of Justice is headquartered and where Trump is accused of unlawfully removing sensitive materials from the White House in January 2021. A federal grand jury that investigated the criminal allegations against Trump also convened in the capital in 2023.

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However, Smith chose to indict Trump in Florida, where he is accused of storing the classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach and attempting to hinder the federal effort to recover them. This decision was presumably made to prevent Trump's legal team from arguing that the charges were filed in the wrong jurisdiction or that Trump would not receive a fair trial in a district where he garnered only five percent of the vote in 2020.

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Tribe also referenced a Raw Story article that detailed a CNN report suggesting Smith's decision to charge Trump in Florida could be a "fateful" one for the special counsel. The CNN report noted that if the charges had been filed in D.C., another judge assigned to the federal trial could have already ruled on several arguments that have been slowly progressing through Cannon, leading to the trial's indefinite delay.

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One such argument awaiting a ruling is whether conversations between the former president and his ex-attorney Evan Corcoran, who was present at Mar-a-Lago during the FBI's search for sensitive materials in August 2022, could be dismissed as evidence on the grounds of attorney-client privilege.

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In March 2023, D.C. District Judge Beryl Howell rejected this argument, stating that the normally absolute privilege cannot be invoked if the conversations are allegedly attempting to conceal or engage in a crime. Howell ordered Corcoran to testify before the grand jury.

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National security lawyer Bradley P. Moss told CNN that Howell's ruling should have provided Cannon with a "clear path" on how to consider the attorney-client privilege issues argument. "That she continues to sit on the matter is inexcusable," Moss stated.

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Trump has pleaded not guilty to 40 federal charges over allegations that he illegally stored classified materials after leaving office in January 2021 and subsequently obstructed a federal attempt to retrieve them. He has consistently maintained that this case and other criminal and civil matters he is facing are politically motivated.

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