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Jack Smith is at his breaking point with Judge Cannon in Trump documents case

Also in this week’s Deadline: Legal Newsletter: Trump’s gag order expands as hush money trial nears, Georgia judge smacks down a free speech defense, and more.


Welcome back, Deadline: Legal Newsletter readers. Donald Trump lost pretrial motions this week in all three criminal cases that haven’t been paused. (The fourth one is on hold, pending a Supreme Court review.) The hush money case is still on track for an April 15 trial in New York, Jack Smith and Aileen Cannon are dueling in Florida, and in Georgia — well, it’s still unclear where that one is headed, but Trump lost a dismissal motion there, too. Oh, and his civil fraud appeal bond that seemed settled is now raising questions.

In the hush money case, Judge Juan Merchan rejected Trump’s latest bid — this time, on a claim of presidential immunity — to delay the trial and preclude evidence against him. Of course, immunity is the issue holding up the federal election interference case on Supreme Court review. But Merchan slammed the former president’s attempt to use it to thwart the hush money trial. The judge called out the delay tactic, writing that the last-minute nature of the claim “raises real questions about the sincerity and actual purpose of the motion.”

Merchan also expanded Trump’s gag order, in yet another sign that the judge is done playing games. It now covers calling out the family members of the judge and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg after Trump spread baseless statements about the judge’s daughter. Merchan warned Trump of sanctions — including possible imprisonment — that “will result” if the presumptive GOP nominee flouts the revised court order.

Meanwhile, things are heating up in the classified documents case. Judge Aileen Cannon rejected Trump’s fringe motion to dismiss it based on the Presidential Records Act, which sounds like good news for special counsel Jack Smith. Technically, it is. But Cannon also punted on deciding whether she will use wacky jury instructions that could tank the prosecution. That raises the question of whether and how Smith tries to appeal or remove the Trump appointee from the case.

In Georgia, the First Amendment won’t save Trump and his co-defendants from trial over alleged 2020 election interference. Judge Scott McAfee rebuffed the free speech bid. He noted that Fani Willis’ racketeering indictment doesn’t just charge the defendants with speaking — it charges them with crimes. So, another barrier to trial is removed in Fulton County. But the bigger question is when a trial will happen and whether Willis can stay on the case, as the disqualification issue looms on appeal.

And remember Trump’s civil fraud bond saga? It seemed settled after an appeals court lowered it to $175 million and he paid it, staving off asset seizures while he appeals. But New York Attorney General Letitia James, who secured the nine-figure judgment that Trump is appealing, has some questions. She filed a notice seeking more information about the bond posted by a company (chaired by a Trump supporter) that isn’t admitted in New York. A hearing on the matter is set for April 22, the same week as Trump’s Supreme Court immunity hearing, to be held April 25.

Smith’s high court brief is due next week in that immunity appeal. The nation is gearing up for the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president, slated for jury selection the following week.

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