Even if it’s the wrong lesson, judge Cannon seems to have learned something after her first crack at protecting Donald Trump. Specifically make an effort not to issue a ruling that Jack Smith can appeal. However, Team Trump seems to have forced her to either firmly shut down a Trump request and worse do so publicly, or give him what he wants (a couple of things I think – I’ll get to that) and provide Jack Smith a solid issue/ruling he can take to the same Court of Appeals that slapped Cannon down before. Please allow me to explain.
It’s no secret that federal District Court judge Aileen Cannon is in the tank for Donald Trump. From the time she inappropriately inserted herself into the National Security case of Trump illegally taking and refusing to return highly classified information when he left office that much has been clear. “Loose” Cannon’s clumsy attempts to help Trump got her slapped down and hard by a very conservative appellate court. TWICE. Some of those appellate judges were even Trump appointees like her! You’d think that kind of humiliation would get her to avoid Trump. She does after all have a lifetime appointment.
If she had common sense and hopes of one day moving up from her literal one-judge, one courtroom cubbyhole in an out-of-the-way spot in FL Loose Cannon would have recused when the National Security case regarding classified documents was “randomly” assigned to her. Given she’d turned herself into a national joke over her improper intervention in the case in 2022 (before there was even an indictment) she could have issued a short recusal statement that would have if properly written actually repaired much of the damage she did to her reputation. But no, she jumped at the chance to be part of Trump’s legal defense team. However, as I indicated if it was the wrong lesson she still learned something important. How to avoid giving Jack Smith grounds to appeal one (or more) of her rulings and get her swiftly and publicly slapped down again. And worse (for both her and Trump) removed from the case. I have zero doubt, none that The Federalist Society has a liaison down there with an office near Cannon’s little courtroom informally advising her. Helping her to “color inside the lines” and therefore help Trump without triggering appellate review.
However, according to an article from Meidas Touch Network Trump (and his lawyers) might have just blown all that up:
Donald Trump just filed a motion before Judge Aileen Cannon to request his lawyers participate in the CIPA Section 4 ex parte proceedings before her that the government requested.
For National Security reasons there is a law that sets forth clear procedures for whether and how highly classified information can be used in a trial. As the linked article points out CIPA (the Classified Information Procedures Act) is well established and non-controversial. Section 4 allows a prosecutor to hold an ex parte hearing (with only the judge) to determine if some classified information (documents in this case) is so sensitive it can be withheld from Discovery and replaced with a Summary or in some other form of substitution.
Again, this part of the law specifically excludes the defendant or the defendant’s lawyer(s) from being present. It’s common sense if you think about it. And again it’s been standard practice in National Security cases. There’s plenty of precedent in the use of this provision of the law. As the article says, with any other judge Trump’s motion wouldn’t just get summarily rejected, it would get laughed out of court. However THIS judge created (dubious) history by being the first in history to unlawfully assert herself over the Search Warrant with her “equitable jurisdiction” argument and get rebuked for it. And then there’s Trump who just can’t seem to help himself by keeping his mouth shut and/or thumbs off his smartphone.
So instead of just letting Judge Cannon continue to make nonsensical paperless orders keeping the case in a state of judicial purgatory to help him, Trump has now forced Judge Cannon’s hand to make a ruling on his CIPA Section 4 request.
We shouldn’t be surprised. This is after all Trump and it’s not hard to imagine his thoughts on this. For damned sure some “stupid law” going to tell Donald Trump what he and his lawyers can do! So in a “f**k” your law move Trump has had his lawyers file a motion to allow his lawyers (and himself?) to sit in on those CIPA hearings with Jack Smith’s team and the judge! I said I’d get to this part. That there are multiple reasons behind the move. It might be given the amount of money he likely needs (or will soon) Trump wants to pull a Jar-Jar and sell some really hot national security information. But he needs to get refreshed on the kinds of granular details needed to make it worth the cost to the buyer. Even if that’s the case I think there’s another, even more Trumpian motive. .
Trump wants to let Cannon and everyone else including Jack Smith “who’s in charge.” That judge Cannon is HIS judge and will do what he wants, when he wants. It’s a not so subtle way of saying “The judge is in my pocket, will throw the trial so I go free. There’s nothing anyone can do about it so stop wasting everyone’s time and drop the charges.” That might sound crazy to you but we are after all talking about Donald Trump. He knows damn well this case is straightforward and limited in scope and that had it been assigned to any of the other three judges that might have caught it jury selection would be underway as I write this. And worse, given it is straightforward and limited in scope it would only take a few weeks to try it meaning by late Jan. or early Feb. he’d be convicted.
Cannon has done everything but hire skywriters to go up every day and put up the words “Trump won’t go on trial in my court until after the election” in letters so large everyone in the country can look up and see the message. But that’s not good enough for Donald. Even if his lawyers advised against it as we know he overrules lawyers. In his mind HE is the expert and in the end the lawyers will make a note to file they advised against something (to cover their butt in a Bar hearing) and go ahead and do what he wants. In this case doing so invites the very thing Loose Cannon has tried so hard to avoid.
The linked article says (correctly I think) that history will repeat itself and Cannon will issue an order favorable to Trump (even if she doesn’t want to) and in doing so give Smith a tangible reason to appeal. An appeal which can point out all the other nonsensical actions along with a reminder of what happened in 2022.
I said earlier Cannon appears to have learned a thing or two about how to avoid getting slapped down again (or worse removed by) that same appellate court. Now she’s in a lose-lose situation. I can’t resist a cannon metaphor. If a cannon is loaded up with too big a powder charge it will blow up the barrel and can cause injury (or worse) to anyone nearby. Team Trump has just done exactly that. And judge Cannon? She won’t have any choice but to pull the lanyard herself and take the consequences. If she’s uncomfortable getting squeezed between the proverbial rock and hard place I won’t shed any tears over her plight. In fact I’ll enjoy her suffering.
Better yet, I’ll enjoy Trump’s. He could have and should have left well enough alone. But nooooooooo! He just HAD to go and despite his pet being well-trained and well-behaved beat it. Just to show everyone he could. Keep an eye out to see what Cannon does. The way I see it there are three choices.
- Rule against Trump and cause him to start trashing HER on Truth Social and rallies, causing HER to be placed in MAGA Nations crosshairs.
- Rule for Trump and provide Jack Smith all the ingredients for a gourmet dinner he can cook up and serve to the judges at the appellate court. And get herself slapped down (hard) for the THIRD time and maybe censured too or even rmoved.
- Find some lame reason to suddenly recuse herself and have the case handed to a different judge.
Not an attractive set of choices is it? However, Cannon long ago chose to lay down in this bed with a rabid dog so if it bites her it will be her own fault she got bitten. The conclusion of the linked article puts it almost perfectly:
Donald Trump could have just left Judge Cannon alone as she sought to avoid making any appealable orders to help him, but he couldn’t help himself, and has now forced her hand.
Now that the ball is in Cannon’s court, expect her to fumble.
The only thing I’d add to that is that Trump might wind up to have just blown up his own case.