Just because Judge Aileen Cannon gifted Donald Trump with a special master, and let him pick who he wanted to serve in that role, does not mean she’s done with stepping in to provide Trump another damn the law, full-speed ahead gift of a ruling. Just one day after Trump’s attorneys complained that they couldn’t meet the deadlines Special Master Judge Raymond Dearie had set, Cannon stepped in to not only give Trump more time—she actually extended her own deadlines, bumping the closing date all the way back to Dec. 16.
In addition, Cannon nixed a critical step of the plan that Dearie had laid out. In any special master proceeding, both sides have to agree on the inventory of documents to be reviewed. Otherwise, it’s not possible to be sure that everything that needed to be dealt with has actually been dealt with. But Cannon never ordered Trump to declare that the list given to him by the Department of Justice was accurate, or to claim that there were documents left off, or to say that there were some things that were on the list but should not be.
Just as they’ve been making noise about Trump declassifying documents without presenting one bit of evidence this ever happened, Trump’s legal team has also been insinuating that the Department of Justice might have planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago. Dearie’s insistence that Trump agree to the inventory, or state his objections, was designed to not only get the proceedings moving, but end any possibility that Trump would later claim some of the evidence was planted. Now Cannon has removed that obligation. The DOJ has to give an inventory and swear to its accuracy. Trump doesn’t have to swear to anything.
Once again, Cannon has given Trump even more than he asked for, and this is after the 11th Circuit called her to task for all the issues with her previous ruling.
This new ruling shows Cannon once again serving the joint roles of judge and Trump’s lead attorney as she rejects portions of Dearie’s plan.
Upon review of the matter, the Court determines as follows. There shall be no separate requirement on Plaintiff at this stage, prior to the review of any of the Seized Materials, to lodge ex ante final objections to the accuracy of Defendant’s Inventory, its descriptions, or its contents. The Court’s Appointment Order did not contemplate that obligation; Defendant since has complied with the requirement to attest to its now-revised inventory and the parties and the Special Master now are situated to proceed forward with the review process pending exchange of the actual materials.
So the DOJ has verified the accuracy of its final inventory. And Cannon has relieved Trump of any obligation to say anything about the documents on the list. This isn’t just a gift for now: It’s one that Trump will still be unwrapping, in court and at his rallies, far into the new year.
But the biggest immediate present from Trump’s own judicial Santa is the gift of time. Plenty of time. Cannon repeats the groundless claim that Trump’s team made on Wednesday that the “11,000 documents approximate 200,000 pages of materials” and proceeds to push forward every date on Dearie’s calendar. And she doesn’t stop with her previous end date of Nov. 30.
… the Court hereby extends the end date for completion of the Special Master’s review and classifications from the prior date of November 30, to December 16, 2022.
That’s a full two months after Dearie had planned to be through with everything.
And there’s more. It’s not just that the end date has been pushed back. Dearie had planned for the process to move in stages, with some documents being cleared even as others were being evaluated. But Cannon recognizes that this might move things along too quickly to achieve all of Trump’s delay, delay, delay goals. So she casually burns that part of the plan.
The Plan also recommended that Plaintiff’s review and assertions of privilege be completed on a rolling basis. To avoid confusion … the Court determines that submission by Plaintiff to Defendant of one final comprehensive log is bettered suited to manage the process and resolve any disputes.
It’s certainly “bettered suited” to something.
In setting her original date, it was clear Cannon intended to make sure that nothing could be determined about these documents before the midterm elections. With this extension, she’s making doubly sure that the message is getting across: She is slow-walking this proceeding until there is absolutely no way it can hurt Republicans in November.
Having already been scolded by the appeals court, there is nothing Cannon can do to stop the DOJ from proceeding with criminal investigations involving the classified documents Trump held at Mar-a-Lago. But where it’s possible to give him assistance, she’s still doing everything she can … and then some.
Good judges are more important now than ever. In some states, judges are on the ballot this November. Tune in to The Downballot to listen to Justice Richard Bernstein talk about what being on the Michigan Supreme Court has been like, and how his re-election campaign is shaping up.