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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Trump’s Criminal Defense Team is Running a Clown Show

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on August 18, 2023

An Editorial Opinion

Yesterday, Donald Trump’s criminal defense team proposed an April 2026 trial date for his federal criminal trial on election interference charges in Washington, D.C.

Trump is charged with four felony counts in this case: (a) conspiracy to defraud the United States, (b) conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, (c) obstruction of an official proceeding, and (d) conspiracy against rights.

The defense's proposed trial date was a dumb idea. Trump's lawyers look like amateurs for even proposing it.

What is worse, this proposed trial date likely undermined whatever credibility Trump’s lawyers had left with U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the case.

Furthermore, Trump’s proposal for an April 2026 trial date was filed with the Court during the same week that we learned about the arrest of Abigail Jo Shry, the Texas woman who issued a threat on August 5, 2023 to kill Judge Chutkan and Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Texas).

Anatomy of a Clown Show

Donald Trump’s criminal defense team has been running a clown show since the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago in August 2022.

The basic missteps listed below demonstrate to me that Trump’s lawyers do not have a clue about how to successfully defend his four criminal cases, and they do not have a winning game-plan for any one of these cases:

1. Jack Smith was too flawed to serve as Special Counsel in Trump’s criminal cases. Yet, Trump’s defense attorneys failed to move for his disqualification. Instead, they have allowed Trump to keep attacking Smith in the wrong way.

2. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has the weakest of the four state and federal criminal cases against Donald Trump. However, Trump’s lawyers are attacking Bragg in the wrong way, as well. At the rate his lawyers are going, they are going to give Bragg an easy victory.

3. U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon is a neophyte, pro-Trump trial judge, but Trump’s lawyers have not provided Cannon with a road map on how to kill Jack Smith’s classified documents case in her Miami courtroom. In fact, they have not offered Judge Cannon credible help on any aspect of Trump's case.

4. Donald Trump’s defense lawyers have not publicly and forcefully condemned the threats of violence against FBI agents, Department of Justice officials, and judges. As attorneys and officers of the court, they must do so. I have condemned these threats, even though I am not a member of Trump’s defense team and I have no personal or political allegiance to him.

5. Trump's lawyers allowed Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis to out maneuver and out-lawyer them with a RICO charge, which has a mandatory minimum of 5 years of imprisonment in a Georgia state correctional facility. This charge could have been effectively circumvented early on during the grand jury investigation.

Trump's attorneys are losing his criminal cases at a pace I have never seen before in my entire legal career. These attorneys are obviously not ready for "prime time" courtroom performances.

Trump’s Proposed April 2026 Trial Date for His Washington Case is Pure “Bullshit”

As my readers know, I currently hold the record in American jurisprudence for defeating federal prosecutors on 85 felony counts in the case of U.S. v. Richard Scrushy Trump is facing 91 felony counts, which is daunting.

On November 4, 2003, the Department of Justice indicted Richard Scrushy, the former CEO of HealthSouth, on 85 felony counts of Sarbanes Oxley offenses and related charges. If convicted on all charges, Scrushy faced 650 years in prison.

In the span of 13 months, my handpicked criminal defense team prepared for a trial that lasted six months. Our trial preparation included a review of (a) more than 6 million pages of seized HealthSouth documents, (b) a stash of secretly recorded audiotapes, and (c) hundreds of FBI transcripts of interviews with cooperating witnesses. We also identified, located, and prepared Scrushy's defense witnesses.

Sixteen HealthSouth executive were charged in the HealthSouth case. Fourteen of them pled guilty and testified against Scrushy, including all five of the company’s chief financial officers since it was founded.

On June 28, 2005, Richard Scrushy walked out of the federal courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama as a free man. Over a 19-month period, we prepared for trial, tried the case for 6 months, and defeated federal prosecutors on all 85 original counts.

Scrushy’s case is featured in the May 11, 2020, "King Richard" episode of Netflix’s "Trial by Media" documentary series.

My point with the Scrushy case is simple: It does not take competent criminal defense counsel 2 years and 8 months to prepare for a criminal case that has only four felony counts. Judge Chutkan knows this, and so do I.

Donald Trump’s proposed trial date and the reasons asserted for it constitute an insult to Judge Chutkan's intelligence and judicial acumen.

I don’t know who is running the clown show in Donald Trump’s criminal cases, but the lead clown seems to be doing everything within his power to lose all four of Trump’s criminal cases, and maybe the election itself.


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