'Roughing him up': Judges scorch Donald Trump's lawyers in 'tense' hearing over 'secret' argument
An attorney representing Donald Trump before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Jim Trusty, seems to have been mocked by one of the three judges hearing the former president’s appeal in what is being described as “tense” oral arguments Tuesday afternoon. One legal expert said judges were “roughing” up the former president’s attorney.
Trump is appealing an earlier ruling in a case he brought against the United States. Trump claims the U.S. Dept. of Justice had no right to retrieve thousands of presidential records taken from the White House that he was storing in his Mar-a-Lago resort and residence. He is also claiming both that he declassified all the classified documents, and that all the items he took were personal items belonging to him.
The case is being heard by three Republican-appointed judges – two of whom Trump himself appointed. In a prior ruling both Trump appointees ruled against him.
The three judges are William Pryor Jr. (Bush 43 appointee), Britt Grant (Trump appointee), and Andrew Brasher (Trump appointee.).
Only minutes into the hearing, Judge Pryor made clear he was not buying Jim Trusty’s argument.
The Independent’s White House correspondent, Andrew Feinberg, reported in real time how Tuesday afternoon’s hearing was going.
(Readers unfamiliar with legal jargon can ignore it – the judge’s perception of Trump’s attorney’s argument speaks loud and clear.)
“So far the 11th Circuit hearing isn’t going well for James Trusty (Trump lawyer) — not 30 seconds in he’s interrupted and asked if he can cite any case in which a court has used equitable jurisdiction in a pre-indictment scenario,” Feinberg reported.
“Trusty starts talking about the ‘raid’ [on Mar-a-Lago] and Circuit Judge Britt Grant interrupts him again to ask if the should be using the term ‘raid,'” Feinberg adds.
He then quotes the judge.
“Judge: ‘It is an initial moment of use of equitable powers to allow the parties to intimidate the entire premise of an exercise of this extraordinary kind of jurisdiction would be that the seizure itself is unlawful. And if you can’t establish that then what are we doing here?'”
“What are we doing here?” is not a good sign for Trump’s attorney, but it gets worse.
Judge Grant asks Trump’s attorney, if Trump were not a former president, what would be “different?”
Then the judge brings down the hammer, so to speak, mocking Trump’s attorney and his “secret” argument.
Trusty tells the judge, “there’s no real secret that we have concerns about the Presidential Records Act…”
The judge replies, “I don’t see where that argument or case has been made. So for our purposes, it sounds like a secret.”
The day did not get better.
Here’s how CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen, a Brookings Institute senior fellow, describes Trusty’s decision to use the word “raid” early on.
“Judge Grant (Trump appointee) calls out Trump’s counsel Trusty for calling the execution of the search warrant a ‘raid’ asking if that’s really the right term to be using,” he writes.
“Trusty backs down,” Eisen says, adding: “They are roughing him up.”
The Washington Post reported on another important aspect of the case, quoting Judge William Pryor Jr., a Bush 43 appointee.
“The judges criticized Trump’s team for seemingly making different arguments in different venues. For instance, in a recent filing to the appeals court, Trump’s team argued that, under the Presidential Records Act, the former president had the right to deem presidential records as personal ones — thus allowing him to rightfully possess former White House records at Mar-A-Lago,” The Post explains.
Trump’s attorney, James Trusty, “did not delve deeply into that argument Tuesday. But he did introduce a new one, saying that the warrant used to search Mar-A-Lago was a ‘general warrant’ that was too broad and sifted through personal possessions of the president.”
Dept. of Justice attorney Sopan Joshi “disputed that characterization and said the court-approved warrant was for specific materials and only allowed a search of specific parts of Mar-a-Lago, such as Trump’s office and storage area.”
“’It seems to be a new argument,’ [Jude] Pryor said after listening to Trusty,” The Post adds.
“This really has been shifting sands of the arguments,” Judge Pryor concluded, clearly not a good sign for Trump.
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, now a popular MSNBC legal contributor and podcaster, serves up this summation.
“A hot bench & not a very receptive one for Trump in Atlanta just now. In 40 minutes of argument, all 3 judges seemed inclined to rule against him, with Judge Pryor laying out the risk of broad interference in all criminal cases if they ruled for Trump,” she tweets.
“If you’re just looking for the bottom line,” Vance adds, “it was a good day in court for the government.”
Attorney Ryan Goodman, a former Dept. of Defense Special Counsel (with a very long and impressive résumé,) agrees: “Looking like this will be a 3-0 ruling for Government and rule of law.”
Just in case there was any question left, attorney and podcaster David Lat says, “Former president Donald Trump is going to lose.”
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