"Ridiculous": Judge Cannon accepts Trump lawyers' request for attorney-client privilege hearing

One legal expert said that it was hard to see Cannon's decision as any other than another delay of the trial

Published June 27, 2024 3:11PM (EDT)

Donald Trump and Aileen Cannon (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images/US District Court for the Southern District of Florida)
Donald Trump and Aileen Cannon (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images/US District Court for the Southern District of Florida)

Judge Aileen Cannon on Thursday granted Donald Trump's lawyers a hearing on attorney-client privilege, further delaying the former president's classified documents case. This is true to form for the Trump-appointed judge, who has been criticized for entertaining even the most frivolous requests from Trump's legal team and playing into his strategy to hold off a trial until after the election.

This time Trump's lawyers requested a hearing over whether prosecutors improperly breached attorney-client privilege when they obtained evidence from Trump's ex-lawyers, part of a larger effort to suppress evidence that could incriminate their client. While defense lawyers are normally shielded from testifying about conversations with their client, the crime-fraud exception holds that they can be compelled to do so if prosecutors show that their legal services abetted a crime.

Beryl Howell, then-chief judge of thee U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, agreed with special counsel Jack Smith that the exception applied, ordering testimony from two of Trump's lawyers and directing another attorney, Evan Corcoran, to surrender audio files containing notes about conversations he had with Trump. Smith's team has relied on those recordings to help pin Trump on charges of obstructing federal investigators; if Cannon sides with Trump's lawyers, that evidence could be dismissed.

The fact that Cannon granted a hearing at all, despite the exception already being upheld by a federal judge, dismays prosecutors and legal experts.

"The decision to hold an evidentiary hearing after a hearing on legal arguments? Hard to see that as anything other than sheer delay," Joyce Vance, a former U.S. prosecutor, posted on X. "Ridiculous."

At the same time, Cannon denied a request by Trump's lawyers to obtain a so-called Franks hearing, in which they could try to show that the search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort was based on allegedly false information from the Justice Department. Cannon ruled that none of the alleged misinformation or omissions by the Justice Department had any bearing on whether federal agents had grounds to search the property.

That at least was a sound call, Vance argued. The standard for such a hearing is very high and "Trump wasn't close," she said.

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