Judge Aileen Cannon Comes Out Swinging in Trump’s Favor (Again) in Classified Docs Case

More questions were asked of Judge Aileen Cannon’s fitness to preside over Donald Trump’s high-profile classified documents case on Monday after the South Florida federal judge rejected special counsel Jack Smith’s bid to preserve “grand jury secrecy” through sealed filings.

In her ruling, Cannon questioned the “legal propriety” of Smith using an “out-of-district grand jury to continue to investigate and/or to seek post-indictment hearings.” She demanded that Smith explain why prosecutors are doing this by Aug. 22.

While much of the Mar-a-Lago docs case is being handled out of Cannon’s district, a portion of the grand jury work ahead of Trump’s indictment was done by a D.C. grand jury, which Cannon appeared perplexed by.

Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance wrote online that Cannon’s latest order “may tee up the issue of her fitness on this case.” Andrew Weissmann, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, suggested the same—writing that Cannon’s order is “off base.”

“Judge Cannon clearly shows her ignorance (bias? both?); the obstruction crimes that were investigated are charges that could have been brought in [Florida] or in DC and thus could be investigated in either district,” he wrote on Twitter. “And there was conduct that is alleged to have occurred outside [Florida].”

In a separate blow to Smith, Cannon also removed two filings by prosecutors—about defense attorney Stanley Woodward’s potential conflicts of interest—from the record entirely.

Prosecutors had asked for a so-called Garcia hearing to alert Woodward’s clients of the potential conflicts of interest, so they filed a motion in hopes they could do so while keeping information off the public record.

Cannon shot down that request, however, writing that prosecutors didn’t do enough to explain why the meeting needed to be kept under wraps. Smith can file new requests to seal the material, but Cannon has made clear she won’t grant a request without a thorough explanation as to why it’s necessary.

Questions surrounding Cannon’s fitness have swirled since she was assigned to handle a lawsuit Trump filed last year to challenge the seizure of documents at Mar-a-Lago. She went out of her way to slow down the FBI’s investigation by issuing bizarre rulings in Trump’s favor, including the appointment of a “special master” to review the seized files. That ruling was later tossed out by an appeals court.

A Trump appointee with little experience on the bench, Cannon was then randomly assigned to preside over the criminal case when Trump was indicted in June.

Meanwhile, a string of errors she’s made in her short time as a judge has come to light. Her most recent hiccup came in June, when she closed jury selection in a child pornography case—denying the defendant’s family and others a seat in the courtroom to watch jury selection. The misstep, an apparent violation of the constitutional right to a public trial, nearly invalidated the proceedings entirely. She also neglected to swear in a prospective jury pool—a mandatory procedure.

Cannon, 42, was appointed by Trump in the waning days of his presidency in 2020. She’d been a federal prosecutor for seven years, but has only been a part of eight criminal trials that resulted in jury verdicts—four as a prosecutor and four as a judge. She’s spent a total of just 14 days in trial as a federal judge, The New York Times reported.

Trump faces 40 counts in his classified docs trial, which is slated to begin in May—at the heart of primary campaign season. It will be Cannon’s most high-profile trial to date, with the eyes of the nation expected to be on her tiny Fort Pierce courthouse.

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