Jack Smith has filed his 404(b) notice, advising the Court and Trump of other crimes and bad acts committed by Trump that he intends to offer as evidence when the D.C. election interference case goes to trial. The notice is nine pages long, you can read the whole thing here. It contains a tremendous amount of new information about the case Smith intends to make against Trump. This is the best window we’ve had in on his strategy since the four count indictment was unsealed in August.
Smith starts about by advising the court that he intends to provide it with “extensive advance notice” of the evidence he’s going to introduce at trial in pleadings, including exhibit and witness lists, pre-trial motions, and his trial brief (a detailed layout prosecutors file in advance of trial discussing their evidence and issues they believe might come up during the trial). This is good news for all of us—it means we’ll have access to much if not all of this information as well.
You’ll recall that in “The Week Ahead” we took a look at Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), which required Smith to file this notice. This rule tells prosecutors they can’t offer evidence that a defendant committed bad acts or crimes beyond what’s charged in the indictment to try and show that the defendant has a propensity to commit crimes, that he’s a bad guy. But the rule permits prosecutors to use the evidence for other purposes. Jack Smith tells the court that all of the evidence he’s going to introduce at trial is “intrinsic to the charged crimes”—in other words, admissible without the need to resort to Rule 404(b) because it’s part of the conduct Trump is charged with in the indictment. But, hedging his bets, Smith advises the court that in the alternative, any evidence the court might deem “extrinsic” is still admissible under 404(b) to prove “motive, intent, preparation, knowledge, absence of mistake, and common plan.”
This is important. As much as getting the case to trial and getting a conviction matters in the first instance, making sure that conviction gets affirmed on appeal is paramount in the larger scheme of things. So prosecutors like to have multiple independent arguments to justify a ruling by the appellate court that what happened at trial was proper.
Smith sets that up here, and the judge, who has broad discretion to determine what evidence is admissible at trial, will put on the record whether she is admitting evidence as intrinsic, extrinsic under 404(b), or as Smith suggests, admissible as both. Good judges make a clear record for the court of appeals to consider, and Chutkan has shown she is very good at doing this, most recently as she ruled against Trump on his presidential immunity motion.
But it’s the substance of Smith’s notice that’s so intriguing. He reveals six areas where he’s going to introduce evidence. [Continue reading…]