Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

There is no trial date in sight for the Trump documents case, as a judge he appointed holds hearing after hearing

By 37ci3 Jun20,2024


There is no trial date in the classified documents case against former President Donald Trump, and none is in sight.

Instead of taking the case to a jury as soon as possible, the judge Aileen Cannoncourt time burned day after day listening to lawyers haggle over defense motions that experts say are long-winded arguments to dismiss charges, exclude evidence or otherwise attack the prosecution.

On Friday, the latest chapter in this legal saga will unfold in Cannon’s courtroom in Fort Pierce, Fla., when he will preside over a day of hearings on whether the appointment of special counsel Jack Smith is constitutional — an argument that is similar to to one rejected by other judges appealed to special prosecutor Robert MuellerInvestigating Trump’s relations with Russia and David Weiss, Who prosecuted Hunter Biden.

Judge Eileen Cannon
Judge Eileen Cannon.US District Court for the Southern District of Florida / AFP via Getty Images file

On Monday, Cannon will hear a defense challenge to how Smith’s office is funded, another line of argument that has been unequivocally rejected by other courts. On Tuesday, he will consider whether a D.C. judge erred in allowing Trump’s lawyer to testify under a criminal-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege.

Some criminal law experts say such motions mean several judges will be entertained during lengthy hearings. Instead, he could read the legal documents and make a decision.

By continuing to demand hours of court time on nearly every issue in dispute, Cannon, a Trump appointee, played right into Trump’s strategy of trying to delay the trial in the case until after the election. Although he said he was just trying to do justice, his actions have raised questions among lawyers.

Donald Trump.
Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago on June 5 in West Palm Beach, Fla.Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images

“Motions that other judges would routinely and quickly rule on, Judge Cannon puts them on the docket and delays them inordinately,” said MSNBC legal contributor and former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance. “It’s like death by a thousand cuts.”

What’s strange, experts say, is that Cannon allowed outside parties to challenge Smith’s appointment before Friday as unconstitutional.

“Bringing an amicus is a very unusual thing,” said former U.S. Attorney John Fishwick, using part of the Latin term for “friends of the court.” “It never happens.”

Shira Sheindlin, who retired after 22 years as a federal judge in New York, added: “There’s no reason to let (outsiders) come in and discuss their reasoning. They have no right to be heard.”

He said it may be appropriate to allow Trump’s attorneys to briefly argue the issue of Smith’s appointment because there is a unique issue — he is the only special counsel in recent memory who has never been confirmed by the Senate. Opponents of his appointment say the founders never intended to vest such authority in someone who had not been confirmed.

Overall, Sheindlin believes Cannon mishandled the classified documents case by not acting quickly.

This image, included in the indictment against former President Donald Trump, shows boxes of records kept on stage at the White and Gold Ballroom at Trump's Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach. Trump is charged with 37 felonies.  Friday, June 9, 2023, mishandling classified documents, according to an unsealed indictment.  (AP via Department of Justice)
Classified note boxes in the White and Gold Ballroom at Mar-a-Lago, Florida.Ministry of Justice through AP

“He’s dragging things out … he’s too slow and he’s stretching his time, and now he’s got a bunch of moves that are all behind him.”

Cannon’s defenders vehemently dispute this idea. Jon Sale, a former federal prosecutor in Florida who recommended Cannon for the judgeship, said criticism of his judicial approach stems largely from disagreement with some of his decisions.

“For the life of me, I don’t understand why there is criticism for holding a hearing in an extremely important case that the whole world is watching,” he said. “It shows that he thought about it carefully. If you take politics out of here, you can’t rush to judgment.”

Cannon did not return a voicemail request for comment left at his chambers.

AAppointed by Trump In 2020, Cannon has been on the federal bench for less than four years, and this is the highest-profile case he has ever handled.

Born in Cali, Columbia, he earned a BA from Duke University in 2003 and graduated with honors from the University of Michigan Law School in 2007.

After clerking for a judge and working for a law firm, she served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida from 2013 to 2020, working in the major crimes and appellate division.

A member of the conservative Federalist Society, he is a longtime Republican but not politically active. He said that his mother escaped from Fidel Castro’s Cuba when he was 7 years old.

This image from the indictment against former President Donald Trump shows boxes of memos kept in the bathroom and shower of Trump's Lake Room at his Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach, Fla. Trump faces 37 felony charges Friday, June 9, 2023 day, mishandling classified documents under an unsealed indictment.  (AP via Department of Justice)
The notes were also stored in the bathroom of Trump’s Florida mansion.Department of Justice via AP

Cannon first came to public attention when he was randomly appointed to the FBI’s search warrant trial at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago compound in Florida. To the shock of many legal experts, he granted a request by Trump’s lawyers to appoint a special master to review everything the FBI had seized. He referred to Trump being a former president.

In December 2022, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta suspended the special master. 21 page decision he sharply rebuked Cannon, saying he was trying to create a “special exception” for Trump that would “go against the founding principle of our nation” that everyone is equal before the law.

This put an end to Cannon’s involvement in the matter. But after Trump’s impeachment, a judge had to be randomly selected from a small pool in the northern part of Florida’s southern district. Of the four available judges, Cannon drew the case.

On Thursday, the New York Times reported that Cannon had rejected a bid by two federal judges not to hear the case. One referred to the optics of reversing his special master’s ruling. Another said the case should be handled closer to Miami.

Cannon repeatedly clashed with prosecutors assigned to the case, who were sometimes irritated by his bland approach.

Jack Smith.
Jack Smith on August 1, 2023, at the Justice Department office in Washington, DC.Jacquelyn Martin / AP file

When one of the prosecutors urged Cannon to “get on with things” in March, he squirmed.

“I can assure you there is a huge amount of litigation going on in the background,” he said. “So even though it doesn’t appear on the surface that something is happening, there’s a ton of work going on.”

But experts say Cannon didn’t do anything that rose to the level of calling for Smith’s firing.

There is a cannon He decided against Trump on important issues. In April he decided against he argued that the Presidential Records Act allowed Trump to treat the classified documents he allegedly kept at Mar-a-Lago as personal records, so the case should be dismissed.

But it took months for him to come to power. In other matters, he forced prosecutors to jump through every technical hoop. A few weeks ago, when Smith asked him to prevent Trump from lying about the FBI’s authority to kill him during the Mar-a-Lago search, he blocked the motion, arguing that the special counsel was insufficiently consulted. Trump’s lawyers before filing a complaint. He filled it in again, and it will be among the topics discussed in the marathon hearings that will unfold over the next few days.

Most legal experts believe the case is unlikely to go to trial before the November election. That means voters won’t know whether the jury believes Trump is guilty of endangering national security and obstructing justice.

“This is important information for voters,” Vance said.

“If he had done his job, we would have had a verdict by now,” Sheindlin said. “It’s embarrassing.”



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