For Democrats to succeed with their 2024 presidential campaign strategy of imprisoning the current front-runner in the race, they need a massive assist from key judges.
District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan has done everything in her power to speed up the process for one of the complicated cases Democrats have filed against former President Donald Trump. Whereas the standard federal fraud and conspiracy case takes about two years to get to trial, controversial Special Counsel Jack Smith and Chutkan have worked in concert to get the trial started in March, a breathtaking seven months after Trump’s indictment.
Likewise, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Florence Pan is doing her part to assist the effort to give Trump far less time than other defendants to prepare for a trial against him. Last week, she led a panel to fast-track an appeal in order to facilitate Smith’s goal of securing a quick conviction before one of Washington, D.C.’s notoriously partisan juries.
“Any fair-minded observer has to agree” that Smith and Chutkan are acting based on the election schedule, conceded former federal prosecutor and left-wing pundit Elie Honig. “Just look at Jack Smith’s conduct in this case. The motivating principle behind every procedural request he’s made has been speed, has been getting this trial in before the election.”
Election interference isn’t incidental to this prosecution, then, it’s the entire point.
While hundreds of defendants in the relatively simple Jan. 6 cases brought by the Department of Justice have had a few years to prepare for trial, Trump and his attorneys have to prepare for one of the most complicated and unprecedented cases in American history in just a matter of months. “Donald Trump is being given far less time to prepare than other defendants,” Honig said.
In September, Trump’s legal team asked Chutkan to recuse herself due to her personal bias against the former president and his supporters. Chutkan, the foreign-born “scion of Marxist revolutionaries,” has received attention for her partisan and incendiary commentary against Trump and his supporters. She denied the request. In October, Trump’s attorneys asked for the suit to be dismissed on multiple grounds, including presidential immunity, violation of the freedom of speech clause, violation of the double jeopardy clause and due process clause of the Fifth Amendment, and several other issues. By Dec. 1, Chutkan ruled against Trump in each case.
A week later, Trump announced his plan to appeal Chutkan’s ruling. The next court to hear the case would be the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
On Dec. 11, Smith did two things. He asked the D.C. Circuit to expedite Trump’s appeal, and he asked the Supreme Court to expedite an appeal as well. He explained to the lower court that while the Supreme Court is considering the petition, the D.C. Circuit has jurisdiction. The singular goal of rushing the process is to make sure that one way or another, Democrats can ram through the trial and conviction of their main political opponent to control the outcome of the election.
In the D.C. Circuit Court, Smith asked that Trump’s attorneys be forced to prepare and file their opening brief within 10 days, that the government get an additional week to respond, and that Trump’s attorneys have three days to respond to that government brief.
Trump’s team was given two days to prepare an argument against Smith’s request for this shockingly abbreviated schedule. In its 16-page response, Trump’s legal team noted that the case was among the most complex and unprecedented in history, that it presented serious constitutional questions, and that rushing the process would violate Trump’s due process and Sixth Amendment rights. Trump’s lawyers also noted how the issues in this trial would affect every president, not just the one Democrats are consumed with hatred toward.
“Could President George W. Bush face criminal charges of defrauding the United States and obstructing official proceedings for allegedly giving Congress false information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, to induce war on false premises? Could President Obama be charged with murder for allegedly authorizing the drone strike that killed Anwar Al-Awlaki and his sixteen-year-old son, both U.S. citizens?” Trump’s attorneys asked.
The team noted how rarely the circuit court expedites such legal procedures, and never in cases even close to the sensitivity of this one. Trump’s attorneys said Chutkan’s speed contributed to her making sloppy mistakes and failing to give thoughtful consideration to arguments.
Citing the court’s own “handbook of practice and internal procedures,” Trump’s attorneys said the court should set a reasonable schedule of providing Trump 40 days to serve and file his initial brief, 21 days to file a reply brief, and 45 days to prepare for oral argument.
“Anything less would result in a heedless rush to judgment on some of the most sensitive and important issues that this Court may ever decide,” Trump’s attorneys wrote.
Instead, the three judges on the D.C. Circuit did precisely what Smith asked them to. They gave Trump until Saturday, Dec. 23 to file his initial brief.
Liberal Panel Lassos the Case for Itself
Each month, the D.C. Circuit has a panel of three judges who consider motions that come before the court. The panel changes each month. While many of the motions that come before the court are simple and administrative, others relate to complicated cases that will require hearings and other court actions. The panel of judges that begins hearing appeals usually keeps the case as it progresses.
This is important because the December panel is particularly left-wing, even for the left-leaning D.C. Circuit. Karen Henderson, the 79-year-old appointee of George H.W. Bush, is on the panel. More importantly, two relatively young Biden appointees named J. Michelle Childs and Florence Pan are also on the panel.
Panels in the coming months will reportedly not be as left-wing as the December panel. The scheduling question, then, becomes one of how hostile the panel of judges will be to Trump’s appeal.
By setting an aggressive schedule, the December panel can keep with the case and help ensure Democrats can get their conviction in time for it to affect the election.
Judge Florence Pan has shown a particular interest in lassoing the case for herself. Appointed in 2022, Pan is the wife of Max Stier, a longtime associate of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Stier is also known for being one of the Democrats eager to join the smear campaign against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Stier and Kavanaugh had been on opposite sides of the Whitewater investigation in the late 1990s. When Democrats ran their unseemly attack on Kavanaugh, Stier told the FBI and two anti-Kavanaugh reporters at The New York Times a weird story about how freshmen at Yale might have done something to an inebriated Kavanaugh and a young woman that was inappropriate. The woman, for her part, told friends she has no recollection of what Stier claimed.
“Stier has always held himself out as a consummate civil servant and above politics, but he provided information wildly irrelevant but calculated to inflame the situation. He’s a malign actor,” said one attorney about the stunt.
Pan is also the judge who wrote the D.C. Circuit’s opinion upholding the reinterpretation of an obscure financial crimes statute to imprison Republican protesters for years. The Supreme Court announced it would be hearing an appeal of her decision in the current term. Many constitutional scholars agree with the dissent, which stated the government’s use of the statute to go after protesters is “implausibly broad and unconstitutional.”
On December 18, the D.C. Circuit announced it was scheduling oral argument for January 9, another example of the way Democrats are rushing to give Trump less time to prepare for argument than other defendants receive. Judge Henderson, the lone Republican appointee on the panel, took the rare step of publicly noting she disagrees with the extreme path chosen by her Democrat-appointed colleagues on the panel.
“Judge Henderson would stay any further action by this court until the United States Supreme Court has taken final action on the Government’s Petition for Certiorari before Judgment now pending before it in this case,” noted the Court order.