In a captivating twist, former President Donald Trump is set to leverage upcoming motions in his classified documents case to exploit the prosecutor’s inability to extract his defense strategy. Charged in June 2023 with retaining national defense information, including highly sensitive U.S. nuclear secrets and military retaliation plans, Trump stands accused of obstructing the government’s retrieval efforts. Despite vehemently denying any wrongdoing, he claims his indictment is merely a ploy to dismantle his frontrunner status in the GOP 2024 presidential nomination race.
Last week, Judge Aileen Cannon, presiding over the case, denied Special Counsel Jack Smith’s request to compel Trump to disclose his intent to rely on the advice of counsel defense. This line of defense asserts that Trump innocently trusted the advice of his lawyer, who purportedly assured him that he was entitled to retain the classified documents even after leaving the White House in 2021.
Today, Trump must file the necessary motions to compel discovery from Smith. Among these motions, one seeks an order pertaining to the scope of the prosecution team. In contrast, others demand tracking information related to handling the alleged classified documents, damage assessments, and impeachment material concerning the investigation’s conduct.
Legal expert Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney in Alabama, shared her insights on Trump’s strategic moves via her Substack blog. Vance suggests that these motions allow Trump to challenge the handling of discovery by Special Counsel Smith. She further anticipates a barrage of outrage from Trump’s camp over perceived failures on Smith’s part. The judge’s eventual ruling typically conveyed through brief notational “minute orders” on the docket, may shed light on whether the trial remains on track for May.
Although the trial date is set for May 20, Trump, the GOP frontrunner, has relentlessly sought to postpone all legal proceedings until after the 2024 presidential election. If Trump secures victory in the election, it is plausible that he may choose to drop the charges against him, given his newfound executive powers.
Judge Cannon has already granted several deadline extensions and signaled her willingness to reevaluate the trial date during an upcoming pretrial conference scheduled for March.
Vance also notes that Trump’s delay in declaring his intention to employ the advice of counsel defense stems from the potential obligation to disclose communications with his attorney to the government—a disclosure he seemingly wishes to avoid at all costs.
As the legal battle unfolds, the intricate maneuvers within Trump’s defense strategy continue to captivate supporters and critics alike. Whether these motions will serve as a tactical advantage or merely fuel Trump’s claims of a political witch hunt remains to be seen. One thing is sure—the impending trial promises to be a compelling spectacle, shaping the trajectory of both Trump’s political aspirations and the nation’s judicial landscape.