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Trump Legal News: Sweet Southern Love

There hasn't been all that much Trump legal news this week, since we are sort of in the intermission between Act I ("The indictments") and Act II ("The trials"). Many Americans would prefer to jump ahead to Act III ("The verdicts"), but that's just not how this works. Maybe in Russia, but not in the U.S.

There has been a little bit of news, however, and the general theme is that things are going OK for Donald Trump when it comes to his Southern trials. To start, in Florida, Aileen Cannon is doing relatively little to dispel the notion that she's in the bag for the fellow who appointed her to the bench. She's doing quite a bit to support the conclusion that she's dragging her feet as much as she possibly can. This week, she finally approved the protective order necessary for Special Counsel Jack Smith and his team to turn classified materials over to the Trump defense team. This was always going to take some time, but the government was ready to start forking stuff over around the 4th of July. So, September 14 is a bit on the slow side. Maybe more than a bit. Cannon has also asked for several hearings whose purposes are unclear, and at the same time she's not dispensing with things already on the to do list, like ruling on the prosecution's motion that defense counsel has a conflict of interest in representing multiple clients while being paid by only one of those clients.

Meanwhile, over in Georgia, Judge Scott McAfee made official what everyone (except, possibly, Fulton County DA Fani Willis) already knew: There is no plausible way to try all 19 defendants at one time, which means that separate trials will be needed. In theory, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, who have exercised their rights to a (very) speedy trial, could be Trial 1 and the other 17 could be Trial 2. In practice, given the concerns expressed by McAfee about logistics and space, we're probably talking three or four or five separate trials (unless a bunch of defendants cop a plea).

This has two upsides from the perspective of the former president. First, it pushes back his trial date, probably by a lot. We are hardly experts in the timing of these things, but those who are experts say we could well be looking at late in 2024 or even early 2025 before Trump is tried in Georgia. And if he's returned to the White House, then overnight 2025 probably becomes 2029 (or never).

Second, when Trump does go on trial, his lawyers will have already seen the case the prosecution intends to build, and how the jury responded to the case. That is useful intelligence, to say the least. It also cuts both ways, in that some of Trump's co-defendants could end up scared witless, and could take a plea deal, particularly if the jury takes 2 hours to render a verdict. But since Trump is never going to be in that group, he's better having more information than less.

Of course, all of this Southern love notwithstanding, Trump's biggest problem right now is the decidedly non-Southern case in Washington, which is proceeding at a rapid pace. All the good news in the world from the South can't change that fact. (Z)

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