Special counsel Jack Smith was strongly criticized in his case against former President Donald Trump over classified documents, with the judge even warning that Smith could face sanctions if he didn’t change his approach.

Florida U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon denied Smith’s request for a gag order that would prevent Trump from criticizing him and aspects of the case. Investigative reporter Julie Kelly first reported on the order, which stated that Smith’s request was “wholly lacking in substance and professional courtesy.”

Smith did not give Trump’s attorneys appropriate time to consider the motion, Cannon noted. “Sufficient time needs to be afforded to permit reasonable evaluation of the requested relief by opposing counsel… Because the filing of the Special Counsel’s Motion did not adhere to these basic requirements, it is due to be denied without prejudice.”

Cannon also warned special counsel Jack Smith about the possibility of sanctions if he continues to bury essential evidence in footnotes rather than clearly presenting them as addendums in his filings. Furthermore, Smith will be required to include unbiased statements of less than 200 words from Trump’s defense team in each filing.


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Smith’s attempt to place a gag order on Trump mirrors a successful effort in the former president’s federal election interference case. However, Cannon’s approach differs significantly from that of the Obama-appointed judge who previously agreed with Smith. The Trump-appointed Cannon has shown greater skepticism toward the government’s arguments, particularly concerning claims that Trump conspired to withhold sensitive documents from his White House tenure, even after the U.S. National Archives (NARA) requested their return

Last week, the Florida-based judge admonished Smith prosecutor David Harbach after he claimed that attorneys for defendant Walt Nauta were presenting a “garbage argument” while seeking to have the charges against him dismissed. Nauta, who still works for Trump, was charged with assisting in the mishandling of classified documents later found at Mar-a-Lago.

Nauta’s lawyer challenged Harbach, questioning whether his team, led by Smith, had withheld exculpatory evidence from a meeting with another defense attorney, Stanley Woodward, who has previously argued that Nauta is being subjected to “selective and vindictive prosecution.”

Investigative reporter Julie Kelly revealed the previously redacted details of attorney Stanley Woodward’s meeting with DOJ prosecutor Jay Bratt. During the meeting, they discussed Nauta’s trial. A document describing the meeting, which special counsel Jack Smith sought to keep redacted, alleges that Bratt threatened to discredit Woodward, who was being considered for a judgeship unless he dropped Nauta as a client.

According to Politico, Harbach described Woodward’s account of the meeting as a “fantasy” that “did not happen.” Bratt, who attended the hearing but did not speak, observed as Harbach accused Nauta of lying to investigators and the grand jury, moving boxes, and deleting videos. The prosecutor asserted that no other defendant’s alleged criminal activities came close to Nauta’s. “Show me someone who has done all that and I’ll show you someone indicted,” he said.

Cannon did not rule on the motion to dismiss, stating she would take it “under advisement.” “The reprimand came after Harbach became agitated when Cannon asked him whether prosecutors had kept evidence of an August 2022 meeting with defense lawyer Stanley Woodward,” Politico reported. “I’m going to have to ask that you calm down,” she told Harbach.


Disclaimer: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.