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Judge hearing arguments on Trumps effort to invalidate appointment of special prosecutor Jack Smith

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(WASHINGTON) — The federal judge overseeing Donald Trump’s classified documents case is hearing arguments Friday on the former president’s effort to invalidate the appointment of special counsel Jack Smith.

The hearing is focused on a legal theory pushed by conservative legal critics of the special counsel, who has been overseeing the case against Trump since his appointment by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November 2022.

Trump pleaded not guilty last June to 37 criminal counts related to his handling of classified materials after leaving the White House, after Smith said he repeatedly refused to return hundreds of documents containing classified information ranging from U.S. nuclear secrets to the nation’s defense capabilities, and took steps to thwart the government’s efforts to get the documents back.

Trump has denied all charges and denounced the probe as a political witch hunt.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has set aside all of Friday for arguments on Trump’s motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that Smith’s appointment was unlawful — an issue other courts have largely rejected.

Friday’s arguments kick off a series of related hearings that will continue into next week.

On Monday Cannon will hear arguments on a motion brought by Trump challenging the funding of the special counsel’s office. The same day, Cannon will hear additional arguments over Smith’s request for a limited gag order limiting Trump’s rhetoric about law enforcement involved in the search of his Mar-a-Lago estate in August 2022.

Then on Tuesday the judge is scheduled to consider Trump’s request to throw out evidence gathered during that search, as well as testimony provided by Evan Corcoran, Trump’s former lead attorney who Smith has alleged Trump misled as part of Trump’s efforts to obstruct the government’s investigation.

The trial in the case had originally been scheduled to begin on May 20, but last month Cannon indefinitely postponed the trial’s start date pending the resolution of pretrial litigation, making it all but certain the case won’t go to trial before Election Day.

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