One day after being indicted on charges carrying a potential sentence of 100 years in a federal penitentiary, it might seem unlikely that Donald Trump would be celebrating. However, this morning at Mar-a-Lago had to be filled with champagne corks and party streamers because the announcement just came out about which judge has been appointed to handle Trump’s case.
ABC News reports that the judge will be Aileen Cannon.
That would be the same Trump-appointed, Trump-serving Cannon who completely overlooked existing law to appoint a “special master” to help Trump keep documents from being reviewed by the Department of Justice. The same Cannon who supported the most ridiculous claims from Trump’s third-rate legal team. The same Cannon who, when the special master made reasonable demands on Trump’s team, overruled the judge she had appointed to give Trump gift after gift in rulings so ridiculous even right-wing pundits seemed shocked. It would be the same Cannon whose actions in this case were absolutely shredded in a ruling from the 11th Circuit that tossed out everything she had done, except the two months of stalling she achieved for Trump.
Now Cannon gets a chance to show her gratitude to Trump again with an appointment that seems like a cruel joke on the nation.
When special counsel Jack Smith convened a new federal grand jury in Florida and then used that grand jury to issue indictments against Trump, legal experts rushed in to point out how smart this was.
Though the case had been heard for months by a jury empaneled in Washington, D.C., a trial in that location might mean the jury pool was insufficiently loaded with committed Trump supporters. Moving the case to south Florida meant that any pool was going to be chock full o’ MAGA, giving Trump no grounds for making any claims about “venue” when this air-tight case landed a conviction.
Sure, The New York Times did mention the possibility that the case could end up falling to Cannon, but that seemed like a joke. After all … what are the odds? There are 18 judges in the South Florida Federal District Court. Eighteen. Stick a hand in a fishbowl and the odds of pulling out Cannon’s name should be less than 6%.
Cannon was already involved in an earlier portion of this case, and courts do sometimes move to place judges who have familiarity with the issues. But considering that Cannon’s interference in favor of Trump was so blatant that her every action was eventually reversed in an eviscerating ruling from a higher court, it might seem reasonable that Cannon’s name would be entirely removed from that fishbowl.
What did the 11th Circuit say about her decision to create a whole new rule that gave Trump power to block the government from looking at the evidence it had collected?
"We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so."
There were serious calls for Cannon to be impeached. A long list of legal experts stepped forward to complain that “in the tank for Trump” didn’t go far enough in explaining just how wrong Cannon’s rulings were and how much she contorted the law in her efforts to help Trump.
It’s entirely possible that Cannon will not remain the judge in charge of this proceeding. She might recuse herself (which seems unlikely). She might also be removed. Judge Bruce Reinhart is also mentioned in the court summons. Reinhart was also involved in the early stages of the case, authorizing the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago and and it’s possible he could take over the case following the initial proceedings. Reinhart is a magistrate judge selected by members of the district court rather than having been directly appointed by a president, so he might be regarded as the most neutral option.
However, unless something changes it will be Cannon who determines what evidence can be admitted in court. Cannon who instructs the jury on what they must consider before reaching a decision. Cannon who determines any sentence should Trump be convicted.
If you’re willing to bet that the answers to those questions are not “Nothing,” “You can’t,” and “Do you want me to drive you home?” You haven’t been following Cannon’s rulings.
This week on "The Downballot," we're joined by guest host Joe Sudbay and law professor Quinn Yeargain for a deep dive into major political developments in three states. First up is Arizona, where a key GOP retirement on the Board of Supervisors in jumbo Maricopa County gives Democrats an excellent chance to win their first majority since the 1960s. Then it's on to Arkansas, where citizens are working to overturn a Republican bill that purports to ban "critical race theory" in public schools by qualifying a referendum for the ballot. Finally, we hit Michigan, where Democrats just advanced a measure to have the state add its Electoral College votes to a multistate compact that would elect the president by the national popular vote.