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Judge Cannon discusses Justice Department budget at Trump hearing
Judge Cannon discusses Justice Department budget at Trump hearing

FORT PIERCE, Fla. – At a morning hearing on former President Donald Trump’s impeachment for alleged misuse of classified information, U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon delved into the details of the Justice Department’s budget.

The hearing, which lasted more than an hour and a half, focused on Trump’s efforts to dismiss the charges against him on the grounds that the office of special counsel Jack Smith was not properly funded.

Cannon is scheduled to hold a separate hearing Monday afternoon on the government’s request for a court order barring him from making baseless allegations against the FBI – a hot topic just days before Trump is scheduled to face President Biden on live television in the first presidential debate between the likely major party nominees.

At the morning session, Trump’s lawyer Emil Bove condemned the proposal to limit Trump’s ability to make such allegations, calling it “a truly extraordinary attempt to deprive him of the opportunity to speak at debates and on the campaign trail.”

The request followed public statements by Trump in which he suggested that FBI agents had come to his property in August 2022 to use deadly force against him.

According to people familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity about internal deliberations, agents deliberately scheduled the search of his Mar-a-Lago estate when Trump was not at home.

Bove said his client was “very saddened” by the criminal charges brought against him and argued that The looming fight over a new news blackout is just the latest example of how the criminal justice process has been unfairly used against Trump. He said the public should know whether Attorney General Merrick Garland signed the motion.

The dispute over the news blackout was preceded by a long and detailed argument about whether Garland had abused the Justice Department’s regulations on special counsels to pursue Trump.

Similar arguments by other defendants charged by special investigators were unsuccessful.

Cannon was particularly interested in how much the appointment of special counsels costs the government, at one point saying it costs a “significant” amount of money, even though that figure represents only a drop in the bucket of Justice Department spending.

The most expensive special investigation in recent years, conducted by Robert S. Mueller III and focused on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, cost about $32 million over several years. The Justice Department’s annual budget is more than $35 billion – meaning Mueller’s work cost significantly less than 0.1 percent of the agency’s expenses.

Bove argued that the Justice Department made a fundamental error by conducting an independent investigation by a special counsel without adequate oversight.

“Our position is that more congressional oversight is needed … for the extraordinary things that happen,” like the news gag request, Bove said. “Who approved that? Was it the attorney general?”

In a separate hearing on Friday on the constitutionality of the special counsel’s appointment, Bove argued that Smith had too much independence and that his appointment should have been approved by the Senate.

Cannon has worked diligently to examine a number of legal issues raised by the defense, including some that are more commonly raised on appeal. in other cases. Before becoming a judge, Cannon was a prosecutor and worked on appeals, and much of Monday’s hearing sounded more like an appellate court hearing than a trial court hearing.

In response, the government’s arguments were presented Monday morning by James Pearce, an attorney in the Office of Special Counsel with expertise in appellate matters.

Pearce said the defense’s claims that Smith’s office was not adequately funded by the government were specious and not supported by case law. Even if the judge had found a procedural error, he said: there would be no meaningful remedy, since the Ministry of Justice could easily obtain the necessary funds from another fund of the agency.

At one point, Cannon warned Pearce not to interrupt her during her speech, but the overall tone of the morning hearing was polite if a little dull. Cannon did not immediately comment on the defense’s argument for dismissing the charges.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

By Everly