US District Judge Aileen Cannon may reveal any “lean” she might exude in former President Donald Trump’s classified documents case with her ruling over a debated preliminary hearing, according to attorney Joyce Alene.
Trump, as well as his co-defendant and personal aide Walt Nauta, has pleaded not guilty to all criminal counts connected to the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents since leaving the White House. The case will be tried in Florida federal court, but concerns have been raised that Cannon, a Trump appointee, could exhibit a bias toward the former president during the historic case.
On Monday, Nauta’s lawyers may have provided an opportunity to put Cannon to the test after requesting that a hearing scheduled for Friday be delayed. The preliminary hearing is part of the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), which will cover how the classified documents at the core of Trump’s charges will be handled in court.
Nauta’s attorneys are requesting that the hearing be moved to a “mutually agreed” date for all parties, stating that Nauta’s main lawyer, Stanley Woodward, is scheduled to begin a bench trial in Washington, DC, this week. Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the DOJ investigation, also filed a response on Monday opposing the requested delay, calling it “unnecessary.”
“The Judge’s ruling will give us a sense of whether she’s going to go straight up the middle or lean Trump,” Alene tweeted Monday afternoon after Smith’s response was filed. “There is no reason to delay this hearing, which is essential to kicking off classified discovery.”
Newsweek reached out to Trump’s press team on Monday via email for comment on Nauta’s request.
Nauta did not enter a plea in the charges against him until last week after retaining Florida lawyer Sasha Dadan. According to the defendant’s motion on Monday, Nauta’s legal team was unable to object to the hearings scheduled for this week until he had secured Dadan’s counsel.
Smith has previously promised to pursue a speedy trial in the classified documents case, and wrote in his opposition to Nauta’s request that Friday’s hearing is “a crucial step in this prosecution.” He also argued that Nauta failed to explain why Dadan was unable to handle the proceedings even if his other attorney was unavailable.
“An indefinite continuance is unnecessary, will inject additional delay in this case, and is contrary to the public interest,” Smith wrote.
Trump and Nauta face a deadline Monday to respond to Smith’s proposal for the trial to begin December 11. Cannon previously proposed a mid-August start date, but the DOJ requested a delay to ensure defense counsel has sufficient time to obtain the necessary security clearance to review the sensitive documents.
The defense teams also have until Thursday to complete all “outstanding applicant tasks required to obtain the required security clearances,” Cannon ordered last week.