Trump legal news brief: Judge Cannon rejects Jack Smith’s request for December deadlines in classified documents case

Yahoo News' succinct daily update on the criminal and civil cases against the 45th president of the United States.

Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Universal History Archive/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images, Samuel Corum/Getty Images, Wikicommons, Getty Images (2)
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Universal History Archive/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images, Samuel Corum/Getty Images, Wikicommons, Getty Images (2)

Judge Aileen Cannon, who is overseeing the trial on former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving office, rejects a motion by special counsel Jack Smith’s team seeking to establish December deadlines for Trump’s lawyers to identify the evidence they will seek to use in court. After an appeals court judge pauses a gag order that restricted Trump from attacking members of New York Judge Arthur Engoron’s staff and earned him $15,000 in fines, Trump returns to doing just that. Here’s the latest from the criminal and civil proceedings targeting the former president.

Classified documents

Judge pushes back December deadlines until at least March 1, 2024, all but guaranteeing trial delay

Key players: Judge Aileen Cannon, special counsel Jack Smith

  • On Friday, Cannon swiftly rejected a Thursday filing made by prosecutors requesting that the judge schedule December deadlines for Trump’s lawyers to identify which classified documents they would use at trial, ABC News reported.

  • Instead, Cannon said she wouldn’t consider establishing deadlines until March 1, 2024, when she has scheduled a conference to hear arguments on delaying the trial until after the 2024 election.

  • Because the case centers around highly classified material, including national security secrets kept at Trump’s Florida home, access to the evidence is restricted. Trump’s lawyers have argued they need more time to view it.

  • Cannon has scheduled the trial to begin on May 20, 2024, a date she kept to in a ruling last week. But she also stated that she would revisit the question on March 1.

Why it matters: Trump is seeking to delay the start of the trial until after the 2024 election, which, if he wins reelection, would give him the opportunity to attempt to pardon himself in the federal case should he be found guilty. Cannon’s March 1 deadline for evidence discovery, which some legal experts say is proof of bias toward the man who appointed her to the bench, makes it more likely that a verdict will not be reached prior to Election Day.

New York financial fraud

Freed from gag order, Trump returns to attacking judge’s clerk

Key players: Judge Arthur Engoron, clerk Allison Greenfield, New York appeals court Judge David Friedman

  • Trump returned to attacking Engoron and Greenfield Thursday, hours after Friedman issued a pause on the gag order that restricted him from criticizing the clerk, Reuters reported.

  • “His Ridiculous and Unconstitutional Gag Order, not allowing me to defend myself against him and his politically biased and out of control, Trump Hating Clerk, who is sinking him and his Court to new levels of LOW, is a disgrace,” Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social about Engoron and Greenfield.

  • Engoron has fined Trump a total of $15,000 for violating his order, which the judge says was put in place to assure the personal safety of his staff.

  • In a request this week for a mistrial, Trump’s lawyers argued that Engoron and Greenfield were biased against him.

  • Friedman wrote that the gag order may violate Trump’s freedom of speech rights outside the courtroom. The issue will be taken up by the full appeals court in the coming days, and until a final ruling is issued, Trump is free to criticize Engoron’s staff.

Why it matters: Trump has been outspoken in criticizing judges, staff, witnesses and prosecutors in the cases against him, portraying them as part of a coordinated effort to keep him from being reelected in 2024. Judges have had to weigh whether those remarks threaten the safety of those they are made against and whether they could impact the prospect of a fair trial.

Recommended reading


Thursday, Nov. 16


Illustration of black-and-white images of Scott F. McAfee, Donald Trump and items labeled as evidence superimposed onto red background.
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images, John Bazemore/Pool/AFP via Getty Images, Getty Images (2)

Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump and 14 others, sides with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and issues a protective order to block the public release of “sensitive” evidence in the case. New York Attorney General Letitia James, meanwhile, asks Judge Arthur Engoron, who is overseeing Trump’s financial fraud case, to rule on his request for a mistrial by December. Separately, an appeals court judge pauses Engoron's gag order on the former president.

Georgia election interference

Judge issues protective order

Key players: Judge Scott McAfee; Fulton County DA Fani Willis; co-defendant and former elections supervisor Misty Hampton; Hampton’s attorney Jonathan Miller; pro-Trump lawyers Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell, Kenneth Chesebro; and bail bondsman Scott Hall

  • Following the publication of proffer videos in which Ellis, Powell, Chesebro and Hall talked about the specifics of the case, McAfee issued a protective order Thursday intended to block the public release of “sensitive” information prior to trial, ABC News reported.

  • “The Court has an interest in ensuring that all parties retain their right to a fair trial before an unbiased jury, a process that could become unattainable should the public be allowed to vet every piece of unfiltered evidence months before trial,” McAfee wrote.

  • In arguing for the protective order, Willis told McAfee that the release of the videos was “intended to intimidate witnesses in this case.” As part of their plea deal, Ellis, Powell, Chesebro and Hall have agreed to testify.

  • Prosecutors had provided the proffer videos to the lawyers of the 15 co-defendants, and Miller, Hampton’s lawyer, admitted leaking them to the media.

  • Miller explained his rationale during an emergency hearing on Wednesday, telling McAfee that “to hide those proffers, that show all the underlying things went into those pleas, it misleads the public about what's going on.”

  • But McAfee’s order is not ironclad or automatic. Prosecutors must identify which evidence they believe is too sensitive to be released prior to the trial and lawyers for the defense can challenge that before the judge.

Why it matters: McAfee wants the case to be tried in court, not in the media. Thursday’s order is another step in achieving that goal, but one that Trump and his co-defendants could argue is violating their right to free speech.

New York financial fraud

Appeals court judge pauses Trump gag order

Key players: New York appeals court Judge David Friedman, Judge Arthur Engoron, clerk Allison Greenfield, Trump lawyer Alina Habba, New York Attorney General Letitia James

  • Saying it may violate Trump's freedom of speech outside the courtroom, Friedman on Thursday issued a stay on the gag order imposed on Trump by Engoron that directed him not to attack his clerk and other court staff, the Associated Press reported.

  • Trump's lawyers had filed a lawsuit against Engoron on Wednesday that claimed the gag order was an abuse of power.

  • Until the appeals process plays out, Trump is now free to offer his criticism of Greenfield on social media and outside the courtroom, and Habba indicated he would do just that.

  • “I don’t see a reason for restrictions because Ms. James is continuing to disparage my client,” Habba said.

Why it matters: Trump has long claimed that James and Engoron are conducting a politically motivated trial against him and has repeatedly sought the judge's removal from the case. For now, he can continue to speak freely about Greenfield to try to make that point.

James asks Engoron to rule on Trump mistrial motion by Dec. 8

Key players: New York A.G. Letitia James, Judge Arthur Engoron, clerk Allison Greenfield

  • James sent Engoron a letter Thursday requesting that he issue a ruling on Trump’s motion for a mistrial in the $250 million civil financial fraud trial by Dec. 8, The Hill reported.

  • In the letter, James cites “spurious allegations” made by Trump’s lawyers in their filing.

  • Trump’s lawyers argued in their motion that the “evidence of apparent and actual bias is tangible and overwhelming” on the part of Engoron and Greenfield, and argue that the judge has already made up his mind in the case.

  • Engoron has twice fined Trump for a total of $15,000 for violations of a gag order he issued to prevent the defendant from attacking his clerk.

  • He will issue a ruling on whether to grant a mistrial, which is seen as a longshot, but Trump’s lawyers can appeal his decision.

Why it matters: The case is expected to wrap up on Dec. 22. Trump’s lawyers began presenting their defense of the former president, his two eldest sons and their family business this week. If a mistrial is granted, James would be compelled to retry it before another judge.


Wednesday, Nov. 15


A photo illustration including, from left, Judge Arthur Engoron,, Donald Trump and N.Y. AG Letitia James
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Jefferson Siegel/AFP via Getty Images, Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images, Brandon Bell/Getty Images, Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images, Getty Images (5)

Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers request a mistrial in the financial fraud civil trial in New York, alleging bias from the trial judge and his clerk. In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis says she sees Trump’s trial on election interference lasting through early 2025.

New York financial fraud

Trump files motion for mistrial

Key players: Judge Arthur Engoron, clerk Allison Greenfield, New York Attorney General Letitia James

  • In a 30-page filing Wednesday to the Manhattan Supreme Court, Trump’s lawyers requested a mistrial in the $250 million civil lawsuit brought by James, saying Engoron is biased against him and Greenfield influences his decisions too much, the Guardian reported.

  • “In this case, the evidence of apparent and actual bias is tangible and overwhelming. Only the grant of a mistrial can salvage what is left of the rule of law,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in their filing.

  • On Greenfield, they added: “Before the court rules on most issues, the court either pauses to consult with her on the bench or receives from her contemporaneous written notes.”

  • In September, Engoron sided with James, ruling that Trump, his adult sons and their family business were liable for years of financial fraud due to inflating the value of their assets. Engoron has since fined Trump a total of $15,000 for attacking Greenfield in violation of a gag order put in place to shield his staff.

  • A spokesperson for James’s office said the request for a mistrial was another attempt to distract from the facts in the case.

  • “Once again, Donald Trump is trying to dismiss the truth and the facts, but the numbers and evidence don’t lie,” the spokesperson said in a written statement.

  • If a mistrial is declared, that would delay the trial from moving forward and could result in its being retried before a new judge.

Why it matters: Trump has so far lost his bids to have Engoron recuse himself, to have him removed from the case and to have the case delayed and thrown out. The request for a mistrial is one such further attempt. If it fails, Trump could still appeal Engoron’s final verdict in the case.

Georgia election interference

Willis: Trump’s Georgia trial could last through ‘early part of 2025’

Key players: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, Judge Scott McAfee

  • In a Tuesday interview with the Washington Post’s Live Global Women’s Summit, Willis said that she believed Trump and his 14 co-defendants would stand trial on charges that he sought to subvert the election results in Georgia and that the proceedings could extend past the 2024 election, USA Today reported.

  • “I believe in that case there will be a trial. ... I believe the trial will take many months. ... And I don’t expect that we will conclude until the winter or the very early part of 2025,” Willis said.

  • While Trump has sought to delay the start of all four criminal trials against him until after the 2024 election, the scheduling of the Georgia case will be up to McAfee.

  • The timing of the trial suggested by Willis would have Trump sitting in the courtroom during the home stretch of the 2024 presidential election, but a verdict may not come until months afterward.

  • Willis said she had not considered the political calendar when pushing forward with her indictments.

  • “I don’t, when making decisions about cases to bring, consider any election cycle or an election season," Willis said.

  • Four co-defendants have already pleaded guilty in the case.

Why it matters: Trump has already cited the busy campaign season as reason to delay his criminal trials. Polls have shown that a guilty verdict in any of them could have an impact on his chances of victory in 2024.

Recommended reading


Tuesday, Nov. 14


A photo illustration showing a woman holding some papers and a man and a woman off to the side against a red background with courthouse columns in the back..
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: John Bazemore-Pool/Getty Images, Alyssa Pointer/Getty Images (2), Getty Images (3)

After video of bail bondsman Scott Hall and lawyers Jenna Ellis, Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell discussing the Georgia election subversion plot is published, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis asks the court to issue a protective order to prevent further footage from being aired before trial. In New York, meanwhile, Judge Arthur Engoron makes no mention of Trump sharing a social media post calling for a “citizen's arrest” of Engoron and New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Georgia election interference

Prosecutors seek protective order after proffer footage surfaces

Key players: Former Trump-aligned lawyers Jenna Ellis, Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, Georgia bail bondsman Scott Hall, former White House deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, Judge Scott McAfee

  • Willis’s team filed an emergency request for a protective order Tuesday with the judge in the Georgia election subversion case in which Trump and 14 others still face felony charges, the Hill reported. The order would limit the defendants’ access to videotaped statements made by those who plead guilty in the case.

  • “The release of these confidential video recordings is clearly intended to intimidate witnesses in this case, subjecting them to harassment and threats prior to trial,” prosecutors wrote in their motion to McAfee.

  • On Monday, ABC News and the Washington Post published clips of Ellis, Chesebro, Powell and Hall, all of whom have pleaded guilty in order to avoid jail time, discussing the specifics of the case, including offering details that could prove incriminating against Trump.

  • “He said, ‘The boss is not going to leave under any circumstances. We are just going to stay in power,’” Ellis is seen telling prosecutors in one of the segments about an exchange she had with Scavino. “And I said to him, ‘Well, it doesn’t quite work that way, you realize.’ And he said, ‘We don’t care.’”

Why it matters: Willis has secured plea deals with four defendants in the case so far. Their testimony will be a key part of establishing guilt for Trump and the others charged. While the videos published Monday illustrate how damaging it could be for Trump, Willis wants to keep more of it from becoming public prior to the case going to trial.

New York financial fraud

Trump shares post calling for ‘citizen’s arrest’ of Engoron and James

Key players: Judge Arthur Engoron, New York Attorney General Letitia James

  • As the second day of the defense’s presentation in the trial got underway in Manhattan, Engoron made no mention of a night post on Truth Social that Trump had shared Monday with his 6.4 million followers, ABC News reported.

  • In a post titled, “MY FANTASY,” a user on the social network who goes by the name VonRitter wrote, “I WOULD LIKE TO SEE LITITIA JAMES AND JUDGE ENGORON PLACED UNDER CITIZENS ARREST FOR BLATANT ELECTION INTERFERENCE AND HARASSMENT,” The Daily Beast reported.

  • James brought the $250 million civil lawsuit against Trump, alleging that he, his adult sons and their family business inflated the value of their assets in order to obtain favorable bank and insurance terms and defrauded the state of revenue.

  • Engoron has already ruled that the defendants are liable for years of fraud. The trial will, in part, determine the damages to be awarded.

  • While Engoron has imposed a gag order on Trump and his lawyers that prevents them from attacking the judge’s staff, he has not included attacks on himself or James in that order.

Why it matters: Trump has repeatedly attacked the judges and prosecutors in the numerous criminal and civil cases against him. Spreading the citizens' arrest “fantasy” follows that pattern, but as George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley made clear, acting on that idea would likely be illegal. “Just in case anyone is taking such a statement as more than a fantasy, there is no basis for a citizen’s arrest and such an effort to physically hold either the judge or the attorney general would most certainly constitute a criminal act,” he wrote on X, Salon reported.


Monday, Nov. 13


Photo Illustration of a smiling Donald Trump surrounded by images of real estate holdings
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Robert Alexander/Getty Images, Spencer Platt/Getty Images (2), Scott Eisen/Getty Images, Getty Images (3)

Former President Donald Trump’s eldest sons seek to portray their father and his company in glowing terms as the financial fraud trial resumes in New York City. In Florida, federal Judge Aileen Cannon rejects a motion by Trump’s lawyers to postpone the start of the classified documents trial until after the 2024 election but says she will revisit that decision in March.

New York financial fraud

Donald Trump Jr. returns to witness stand, while Eric Trump plays to the court of public opinion

Key players: Trump Organization executive vice presidents Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, Judge Arthur Engoron, New York Attorney General Letitia James

  • Trump Jr. returned to court Monday as a witness for the defense in the $250 million civil lawsuit bought by James, testifying about the history of the Trump Org. and calling his father “an artist,” CBS News reported.

  • "He's an artist with real estate," Trump Jr. said of his father, adding, "That is his canvas that he creates. He is a creative guy, and he's also good at building."

  • Engoron has already sided with arguments made by James, finding Trump, his eldest sons and their family business liable for years of financial fraud in New York. The trial will, in part, decide penalties for the defendants.

  • Eric Trump also used art as a metaphor to describe his family business, Huffpost reported.

  • “Our assets are worth a fortune. They’re the Mona Lisas of the real estate world,” he said during an interview with Fox News Sunday over the weekend.

Why it matters: Trump’s sons, who are defendants in the case, continue to try to shine the best possible light on their business practices. Engoron’s ruling in the case could cost them millions of dollars and prevent them from conducting business in New York, however.

Classified documents

Judge refuses to delay start of trial but will revisit question in March

Key players: Judge Aileen Cannon, special counsel Jack Smith, Trump lawyers John Lauro and Todd Blanche

  • Cannon on Friday denied a motion by Trump’s attorneys to delay the start of the classified documents trial until after the 2024 presidential election but said she would revisit the request in March, the Palm Beach Post reported.

  • Trump has been charged with violating the Espionage Act, among other crimes, by illegally retaining classified documents after leaving office and thwarting the government’s attempts to recover them.

  • The trial is scheduled to begin on May 20.

  • Trump’s lawyers had argued they needed more time to review 1.3 million documents and hundreds of hours of surveillance video footage shot at Mar-a-Lago that was given to them by Smith’s team.

  • Smith argues that Trump has not established “good cause” for his many requests to delay the start of the trial.

Why it matters: While Cannon’s ruling represents a victory for Smith, the judge has also signaled her sympathy toward the arguments put forward by Trump’s attorneys and could change her mind in March.