A Florida district judge assigned to oversee Donald Trump’s classified documents case has drawn criticism because Mr Trump himself elevated him to the bench three years ago.
Aileen Cannon, a federal judge in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida presiding over the Espionage Act and obstruction of justice case against Mr Trump, rejected the disgraced ex-president’s request to delay his trial until after the 2024 election.
Judge Cannon issued an order on 21 July granting the government’s request to set an expedited trial date and schedule for pretrial motions, with a start date of May 20, 2024.
Prosecutors in the Justice Department’s Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office have asked him to set a trial date of December 2023, four months after the August date he put on the court calendar shortly after Mr. ion of the sins of justice.
If the former president is convicted, he will be tasked with giving a sentence to the very person who appointed him to that position.
Mr Trump has been charged with 37 felony counts related to the mishandling of presidential records, including highly sensitive national defense information, since he left the White House in January 2021.
At the moment he insists that he is “an innocent man” in angry statements and postings on Truth Social, saying that he is the victim of “vicious wolves” and the “weapons” of the justice system of the “corrupt” Joe Biden administration, although the accusation reveals photos of boxes of files stacked in the high ballrooms of Palma Beach-Lago in his estate.
Angela Noble, the court’s chief clerk, insisted that “normal procedures were followed” in assigning Judge Cannon and magistrate judge Bruce Reinhart to the case.
However, Judge Cannon has come under fire for delivering rulings widely seen as favorable to Mr Trump in the course of the investigation into classified documents.
After the FBI executed a search warrant in August 2022 to enter Mar-a-Lago and look for classified documents, Mr Trump’s lawyers filed a complaint arguing that the search was illegitimate and unconstitutional.
After that, Judge Cannon issued an order prohibiting the US government from “further review and use of any materials” seized from Mar-a-Lago “for purposes of criminal investigation”.
The decision drew concern among legal groups as an unprecedented example of a federal judge assuming the authority to halt a pre-indictment criminal investigation of a suspect. His decision was later overturned by the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
Judge Cannon last year also sided with Mr Trump’s request that an independent special master be appointed to review the documents before they can be examined by the Justice Department, a decision branded “deeply flawed” by Mr Trump’s own former attorney general, Bill Barr.
After appointing special master Raymond Dearie, Judge Cannon rejected some of his procedural suggestions and sided with Mr Trump’s lawyers on several key points.
The appeals court ruled that Judge Cannon “improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction” and ordered him to drop the case.
slate Legal analyst Mark Joseph Stern called the decision “one of the most shameful appellate smackdowns in recent history, a total demolition of literally every action taken by Cannon from the beginning of the case”, also labeling the judge “a venal mediocrity”. He also suggested that a “total lack of principle” and “apparent inability to experience shame” were likely to prove useful to Mr Trump once again this summer.
Judge Cannon is of American-Cuban descent and was born in Cali, Colombia, in 1981. He grew up in Miami where he attended Ransom Everglades School, then Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and then the University of Michigan Law School.
He clerked for an appellate judge in Iowa for a year after graduation, then worked for the corporate law firm Gibson Dunn in Washington DC, from 2009 to 2012 and then as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of Florida, based in Fort Pierce, from 2013 to 2020.
Following his nomination by Mr Trump, he was confirmed as a federal judge by the US Senate in November 2020 in the dying days of his one-term administration.
His appointment to the bench came just 12 years after he first qualified to practice law, the minimum experience the American Bar Association requires nominees to have.
Judge Cannon is a registered Republican, a member of the conservative Federalist Society since 2005 and reportedly donated $100 to Florida governor Ron DeSantis’ 2018 gubernatorial election campaign.